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Local News

Santa Barbara County ADMHS Plans to Add 12 Mental Health Beds By July

For the first time since 2007, Santa Barbara County will be adding back some badly-needed mental health beds.

Dr. Alice Gleghorn, the new director of the Department of Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Health Services, plans to open 12 beds by July.  

Her department is facing a $3.5 million to $5.5 million deficit for the current year, mostly from increases in the costs of inpatient care.

The number of patients designated as incompetent to stand trial (or ISTs) is significantly increasing statewide and the county isn’t reimbursed for housing those people in the Psychiatric Health Facility. Housing people in the PHF costs about $1,650 per bed per day, and Gleghorn said her staff is working on ways to restore competency on an outpatient basis.

“Basically we identified that we really need to expand our options for safe and stable options for housing in Santa Barbara,” Gleghorn said, adding that the county sends patients all over the state due to the lack of acute beds here and those beds cost about $775 per day.

She plans to open six new beds within the next month, which will cost about $233 per day, and another six within 14 weeks.

Fifty of the county’s 103 mental health beds were eliminated since 2007, including intensive residential beds, intensive board and care beds, and board and care beds.

“Once you lose this type of services within a community or neighborhood it’s very difficult to reestablish it," Gleghorn said. "We have to rebuild it and it will take some time, and it will take some working with community partners.”

Clients are sent to facilities as far away as Oakland and Morgan Hill, which has a financial cost and human cost, she said.

It’s difficult for family members to visit and community resources to form a connection with the clients if they are housed hours away.

“This is the reason why we needed somebody like you to come in here,” Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino told Gleghorn, who started her position in December. “This is the first concrete thing that I’ve seen that’s addressing this issue.”

The addition of 12 local, less-expensive beds should save the county about $2.5 million per year, Gleghorn said.

Supervisors seemed unaware the beds were ever cut.

First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, who has been on the board the entire time, said he wasn’t sure the board was ever aware of the cuts as the former district administration made the decisions.

The majority of cuts were in 2008-09 when the department had severe budget problems and had to find a way to balance the budget, Gleghorn said.

“As you say, I wasn’t here, so I don’t know the whys of the decision behind that, but clearly it was the kind of decision that makes our current situation very difficult,” she said.

There will be other ADMHS and Public Health funds that can compensate for going over budget, according to county staff.

The Sheriff’s Department is expecting a $1.7 million to $2 million deficit this year, mostly from overtime expenses, Sheriff Bill Brown told supervisors. Last year, the supervisors approved a $1 million fund transfer to make up for the department going over budget.

Brown already closed a portion of the County Jail’s Medium Security Facility, moving about 60 of the 200 inmates to the Main Jail to save about $126,000 in overtime costs, he said.

Brown may delay filling some positions and has considered reducing the staffing at the Santa Maria Branch Jail. There are 20 long-term inmates there now, and they would have to be transferred to the Main Jail if staffing is reduced to two deputies. The 24-hour booking station would stay open, Brown said.

With projected retirements through the end of the year, the department will have seven vacant deputy positions and five custody deputy vacancies which is “manageable,” Brown said.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli 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.

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