Friday, February 23 , 2018, 2:36 am | Fair 47º


Local News

County Supervisors Delay Decision on Mental Health Contract for Juveniles

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday not to approve switching the Juvenile Justice Mental Health services from county staff to a private contractor — at least not yet.

After much discussion Tuesday, the board decided to approve a contract with Corizon for medical services at the County Jail, Santa Maria Juvenile Hall and Los Prietos Boys Camp, which have been in effect for a few years. Corizon has been providing mental health services for the County Jail since 2009, and Sheriff Bill Brown said its work has been “nothing short of exemplary.”

Costs for using staff members from the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services Department have been increasing every year, and Probation Chief Bev Taylor proposed using Corizon for the Juvenile Hall and Boys Camp to save about $300,000 next year in the face of yearly budget cuts.

The proposal has nothing to do with the services provided, which are excellent, she said.

The proposed $10.8 million contract was for two years, covering all medical, mental health and pharmaceutical services for the Sheriff’s and Probation departments. Staffing and service levels would remain the same for the Juvenile Justice Mental Health program under the contract, Taylor said.

The supervisors weren’t entirely convinced, particularly about having people on-call for emergency situations and quick evaluations. They delayed a decision for mental health services and ordered the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council to take a look at the contract.

Supervisor Janet Wolf has been one of the most outspoken about her concerns.

“I can’t help but think, if it’s not broken, why fix it,” she said. “If it’s a matter of $300,000, then we need to look at our values and what these kids are going through, the mental illness these kids are going through, and the treatment that they will be receiving. I just urge all of us to take careful note in the significant change. We did it with the adult population and at that time I had concerns about that, but to make this change to the kids is rather drastic, and I would submit unnecessary, and we should be able to find the funding to keep the system in place that’s working.”

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino noted the concerns and said he would be supportive of the contract if it truly keeps the same service levels.

“If we can’t afford what we have then we are broken, financially,” he noted.

The medical and pharmaceutical parts of the Corizon contract were approved unanimously, and the issue of mental health services for juveniles will come back at a future meeting.

Cmdr. Darin Fotheringham, who oversees jail operations, noted that pharmaceutical costs are constantly rising as well. The cost per year is decided by the medical issues of inmates, but the costs have bounced between $500,000 and $700,000 per year for the last five years.

Famously, the County Jail had an inmate last year who would have cost the county $510,000 in medical bills alone had he spent a whole year in custody, Fotheringham said.

The man, whose name and condition weren’t released due to patient privacy laws, was booked into the County Jail for attempted murder and a year’s worth of his medicine exceeded the entire budget for prescription drugs for all inmates.

The Sheriff’s Department expects some savings by using Corizon for pharmaceutical services, as a pass-through pharmacy, he said. Probation spends $100,000 to $200,000 per year on pharmaceutical services. Last year, in 2011-12, costs went up 41 and 28 percent, respectively, for the Sheriff and Probation departments.

Noozhawk staff writer 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.

  • 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 >

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.

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 >