SLO County fails to provide adequate mental health services, grand jury finds

August 3, 2022

By KAREN VELIE

A recent Grand Jury investigation determined that San Luis Obispo County has failed to create and maintain a safe, orderly, effective and efficient way to ensure people with mental health issues receive the care they need. need, according to a July 26 report.

In SLO County, those awaiting mental health are held in local hospitals rather than mental health facilities, resulting in inadequate care for the mentally ill as hospitals are not staffed with medical professionals mental. In addition, requiring hospital staff to monitor patients with mental illness reduces the quality of emergency care.

The Grand Jury also found that the county does not provide mental health services to minors or adults who do not meet the criteria for treatment at the county mental health facility. Most mentally ill patients are transported to facilities outside the county.

About four years ago, the county contracted with a private company, Sierra Mental Wellness Group (SMWG), to operate a four-bed Crisis Support Unit, located near the San Luis Psychiatric Health Facility. Obispo. The facility is supposed to provide mental health care to those who are not under mental health control.

The contract initially required SMWG to provide a full-time registered nurse. SMWG, however, failed to meet the requirement.

The county changed the contract in 2021 to only require a registered nurse, psychiatric technician or other psychiatric service provider at the facility when clients are present.

Staff at the County Psychiatric Health Facility routinely ask Crisis Support Unit staff to admit patients from their facility. On several occasions, SMWG staff members claimed they were at their capacity of four patients, even though they had no clients, according to surveillance cameras located at the facility.

“Unaware that any clients were in the crisis support unit at the time, staff at the psychiatric health facility checked the cameras and saw that the crisis support unit was empty, at the ‘exception of SMWG personnel,’ according to the grand jury report. “When asked about the situation, Crisis Support Unit staff responded by taping sheets of paper over the cameras, rendering them useless.”

The Grand Jury calls on the county to relieve hospitals of the responsibility of storing the mentally ill by integrating and improving county services.

“SLO County should commit to creating a single, integrated and unified mental health service center that houses the psychiatric health facility, crisis support unit, mental health assessment team , outpatient coordination, juvenile mental health services and which includes medical triage. and a screening facility where all inmates, regardless of age, class or insurance status, can be medically cleared before being placed in an appropriate section of the mental health facility.

Complying with the recommendations will likely be difficult for the county as it currently moves to outsource and further divide the county’s mental health services. In June, SLO County administrators announced plans to contract out inpatient mental health services at the psychiatric health facility to a private entity.

Over the past decade, administrators at the psychiatric health facility have come under fire for allegations of mistreatment of mentally ill people. The allegation led to a federal investigation and continued staff turnover.

The physician in charge of the unit, Behavioral Health Department Medical Director Daisey Ilano, is being investigated for his actions in the treatment and death of Andrew Holland.

Holland, a 36-year-old mentally ill man, died in January 2017 after prison guards left him restrained in a restraint chair, also known as the “devil’s chair”, for more than 46 hours.

The county mental health facility had refused to admit Holland. Ilano claimed at the time that the county facility was full and could not admit any inmates, while allegedly storing boxes in some patient rooms.

San Luis Obispo County officials are required by law to respond to Grand Jury recommendations.

About Evelyn C. Heim

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