January 8, 2020 — In its first meeting of the new year, the Board of Supervisors agreed to research a number of legal questions about using Measure B funds for mental health facilities at the Mendocino Coast District Hospital, the Adventist Hospital in Ukiah, and old Howard Hospital in Willits.
Last month, Jason Wells, the president of Adventist Health in Mendocino County, sent the board and the Measure B Citizens Oversight Committee a letter asking if some of the tax revenue from the voter initiative could be used for sixteen beds in Adventist or Adventist affiliated facilities. Wells hopes that in March, voters will approve an Adventist proposal to operate the coast hospital under the terms of a thirty year lease on behalf of the hospital district. He said the coast hospital is allowed to designate ten beds specifically for mental health patients, in an arrangement that he said would be similar to the much sought-after puff, or psychiatric health facility, but with a higher level of medical care. He also proposed using Measure B funds to transform an empty wing of the Ukiah hospital into a locked six-bed psychiatric unit, with Adventist Health providing the treatment.
Supervisor Ted Williams brought up the ongoing costs of operating a psychiatric facility yesterday, during an update on the last Measure B Citizens Oversight Committee meeting. Dr. Ace Barrash gave the report and responded to questions, because the December meeting was his last as chair of the committee. Donna Moschetti, of NAMI, will take up her duties as chair this month and act in that capacity for two years.
Barrash and Isobel Gonzalez, the new Measure B project manager, also presented a list of questions that the committee wants county counsel to research before proceeding with any of the collaborations under consideration. The board has already directed the executive office to conduct a feasibility study of Wells’ proposal and the operational costs of the mental health facilities. Supervisors also agreed that the primary question for counsel should be: Is this legally consistent with the Measure B ordinance?
CEO Carmel Angelo reminded the board about the $3.3 million dollar contract with architect Nacht and Lewis, which the Measure B committee and the Board of Supervisors have agreed to move ahead on. That contract is for early-stage design and pre-design advice for a number of mental health facilities around the county, and it is flexible. One of the options it includes is building a crisis residential unit on Orchard Avenue in Ukiah on a bare lot next to the post office.
The board, chaired this year by Supervisor John Haschak, agreed unanimously to analyze the legal questions about using public money to partner with Adventist Health to provide mental healthcare and to review and respond to questions posed by the city of Willits about the possibility of having such a facility at Old Howard Hospital.