Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 6:20 pm | Fair 66º

 
 
 
 

Local News

More Psychiatric Beds Could Be on Way for North County Mental Health Needs

Board of Supervisors to consider proposed partnership with Marian Regional Medical Center that would ease demand on lone South Coast facility

With a dearth of places for people in mental health crisis to turn to in Santa Barbara County, local officials are exploring a new option that could provide much-needed psychiatric beds in partnership with a North County hospital.

In August, Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino met with Marian Regional Medical Center officials and county staff to discuss the possibility of operating a new psychiatric facility in one of the hospital’s older buildings in Santa Maria.

That concept will be discussed briefly at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, at which supervisors will decide whether to study the idea’s financial feasibility.

Currently, those in mental health crisis in the Santa Maria area must be transported by ambulance to the county’s only psychiatric hospital — more than 60 miles away. The Psychiatric Health Facility, at 315 Camino del Remedio in Santa Barbara, is the only locked facility where people can go if they are a danger to themselves or others.

That facility only has 16 beds, however, and county officials acknowledge the number is woefully inadequate for a county population of more than 425,000. The county also has contracted for five beds at a Ventura County facility — at a cost of $1.2 million for the next year.

Mental health advocates have long complained about the lack of beds in the county, but how many are enough is up for debate. What is clear, Lavagnino said, is the need for more.

“We are not properly treating our most needy under the current system,” he said. “Right now our emergency rooms and County Jail are full of patients who need care in a dedicated mental health facility. The situation isn’t fair to the patient, the doctors or our correctional staff, and it’s the Board’s responsibility to look at alternative solutions.”

County staff reports say a minimum of 30 acute beds are needed.

It’s not clear how many additional beds and what services the possible partnership would provide, but Lavagnino is hopeful that after Tuesday “the county can move forward with seriously exploring all options alongside Marian Medical Center.”

The tentative proposal has the old hospital facility at 505 E. Plaza Drive housing a North County psychiatric health facility, which would be operated by the county. A crisis response unit would also be a component, and could potentially be operated by a third party. Substance abuse and treatment programs, a geriatric psychiatric unit and the Crisis and Recovery Emergency Services, or CARES, outreach and residential facility could also be relocated there.

Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors contracted with a private company, Health Management Associates, to conduct an audit of the Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services and its programs; that report is due in October. The new Marian Regional Medical Center proposal wasn’t on the table at that time, however, and review must be expanded to evaluate such a partnership.

Supervisors will be asked Tuesday to pay an additional $15,500 to evaluate the new proposal,

Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in the Board Hearing Room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >