A group of state and local officials gathered at the Be Well OC mental health service center in Orange on Friday August 19 to applaud the on-site programs that began operating in January and to celebrate a $ 5 million infusion of public funds to help build a second campus.
The early afternoon presentation of oversized fake checks came even as MP Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, worked remotely from an empty courtroom at the Capitol in Sacramento, chairing a virtual meeting of three hour which examined various aspects of both homelessness and mental health services in Orange County, including the needs of children affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
While different in tone and scope, the two events highlighted ongoing efforts to better address mental and behavioral health issues. And speakers – whether elected officials, service providers or advocates – highlighted the challenges faced in providing acute and long-term care to a segment of the population that, only in recent years, has begun to benefit from it. significant attention and funding.
Speaking at the Be Well OC event, State Senator Pat Bates R-Laguna Niguel succinctly summed up the thought of the day as she thanked fellow Senate colleague Tom Umberg and MP Cottie Petrie-Norris, both Democrats, for their bipartisan “heavy lifting” in working with her to secure not only $ 5 million for a planned Be Well campus in Irvine, but also $ 2 million for a database that will enable a multitude of different departments county to transparently share information about services provided to the homeless and others in need.
“Today is a great start,” said Bates, a former social worker who once oversaw a program in Los Angeles County for people with severe mental illness, addiction issues and poverty.
“But we all know we still have work to do to make sure every resident has access to the care they need. “
Children in crisis
In Sacramento, Quirk-Silva chaired a meeting of the Assembly’s Special Committee on Orange County Homelessness and Mental Health Services. Quirk-Silva explained that the meeting, similar to the one she hosted in Buena Park two years ago, was more important than a town hall she could hold because the information provided by local experts and providers of services would be officially registered in the state. record of the legislature. A recording can be viewed on bit.ly/3B4TzBT.
Due to the COVID-19 protocol, all guests at the virtual meeting – from the areas of mental health, homelessness and housing – spoke on a monitor. And Quirk-Silva, who lost a brother to alcoholism and homelessness and is considered a “bulldog” on the issue of homelessness, was the only lawmaker on the seven-member select committee physically present or virtually; the others had returned home Thursday and obscure assembly rules prevent them from participating remotely, she said.
The meeting was divided into presentations in three different areas: community mental health needs and services; mental health and homelessness; and housing. Perhaps the most startling revelations came from the first panel of presenters, which included Dr Clayton Chau, director of the County Health Care Agency, and Dr Heather C. Huszti, who chairs the Division of Pediatric Psychiatry. at CHOC Children’s Hospital Orange County.
Chau and Huszti both spoke about the mental health toll the coronavirus pandemic has caused to children and adolescents.
Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an increase in calls from parents seeking mental health services for their children, as well as a 100% increase in requests from medical providers for psychiatric consultations on behalf of young patients with suicidal ideation, Huszti said. It is not known how long the psychological effects of the pandemic could last, she added.
“Their illnesses are worse and it takes more care and more time to sort out their problems,” Huszti said, citing depression and anxiety among these problems.
And, she told Quirk-Silva, Medi-Cal, federally funded health coverage for California residents who cannot afford private insurance does not pay for the type of intensive outpatient programs. needed by a growing number of impoverished youth.
For adults and teens, the Be Well campus offers crisis intervention without making the ability to pay a barrier.
The 60,000-square-foot, three-story Be Well OC building located south of Anita Drive near Highway 57 opened in January, touted as a possible model for bringing improvements. Mental and behavioral health services in one place for people in crisis, regardless of their socio-economic status and insurance coverage. It is the first of three such campuses under consideration by a public-private partnership known as Mind OC and has served over 1,000 people to date. The 57 residential treatment beds on campus – for varying length programs – were all full on Friday.
The state’s $ 5 million boost is for the construction of the second Be Well campus on a 22-acre parcel near Great Park in Irvine, which was once part of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro . The campus is at least two years away. A former office building has been demolished to create the $ 40 million facility in Orange, designed to remove the stigma and financial barriers that can prevent treatment.
The Irvine site will be twice the size and likely house more longer-term residential programs, Orange County Board Chairman Andrew Do said in a telephone interview on Thursday. He did not know the estimated cost or the completion date of the Irvine campus but called the state contribution “a great victory for us” because it also serves as a stake for possible future allocations.
“$ 5 million is a lot of money, but more importantly to me, (Be Well OC) is on the state’s radar,” he said. “They know what we are doing.
The party in Orange, visible on facebook.com/ocgov, also recognized the smaller but vital award of the state’s $ 2 million to help the county create a much-desired software platform to help coordinate care for those in need, such as the homeless. chronic, who are reported as “heavy users” of local programs and services. (Think about multiple trips to emergency rooms.) County employees in five key areas – healthcare, behavioral health, housing, community corrections, and social services – will be able to more easily track a person’s care within the hospital. of the system.
The integrated database should also cut down on bureaucracy that can deter someone from seeking help, supervisor Katrina Foley said at the Be Well rally.
“You don’t have to start over… filling out paperwork every time you need help. “