New Jail Unit & New Mental Health System

by Mark Scaramella, October 8, 2013

Sheriff Allman got approval from the Board of Supervisors on September 23 to apply for a $10 million state grant to add a large new unit to the Mendocino County Jail. The County will have to put up $1 million of the $10 million (unless the state decides to lower the County portion to $500k). Allman told the Board that the new (third) unit “will rectify problems we are experiencing with housing and providing programs to inmates.”

The Sheriff explained why the new unit is needed:

“The jail facility is maintenance intensive. Walls have holes from rust, walls and ceilings leak during the winter months, chronic heating and air conditioning problems, plumbing leaks and circulatory problems. Past planning provided inefficient and ineffective housing unit types. We utilize the ‘pigeon hole’ method (inmates are placed in wherever there is an empty cell) for the mentally ill and maximum security inmates. The correct type housing units were not built (in the existing jail). We have chronic crowded conditions in the Women’s Jail because this portion of the jail was not built large enough and lacks enough maximum-security cells. The maximum-security inmates are housed in cells that were built for medium security inmates. The locks [originally meant for libraries, not jails] can be defeated and assaults on other inmates and staff have occurred. The lack of inmate program space and other competing program requirements severely impedes access to Inmate Programs such as; religious, substance abuse, and educational for maximum security inmates. Attorney client visits are extremely difficult because of a lack of visiting space for confidential visits. On occasion, the attorney leaves without seeing their client. The local defense Bar and Public Defender has complained about the current conditions. Due to the severely mentally ill inmates being housed in many locations within the facility [upwards of 25% of the inmates], it makes it difficult for mental health staff to treat them in a comprehensive and focused manner. Because of competing programs (showers, visiting, etc.) it is very difficult for corrections staff to ensure all legal requirements are completed.

“It is our plan to build three maximum-security housing units. This (new) building will be located between the two existing buildings. All housing units will contain sufficient program space for Inmate Programs. A mental health/medical office and exam room will be shared by the housing units. In addition, a visiting center for attorney visits and family members will be built. Expansion of dry and frozen food storage in the kitchen will be necessary. It is our assessment that this plan will resolve all of the major concerns with exception of the maintenance problems in the current facility.

“In order to meet the required 5% match, if we are approved, the County will have to set aside $500,000 in a restricted budget line item to comply with the terms of the lease-revenue bond agreement. If the State rejects the request for the reduction, then it means $1,000,000. The building itself will not be the most costly expense; the staffing will be the biggest concern. The staffing allocation for this building will be an additional eight correctional deputy positions. Sheriff’s Office financial staff has projected this additional cost to be as follows: Year 1: $957,527; Year 2: $998,872, and Year 3: $1,042,248.”

Supervisors Pinches and Gjerde were somewhat irritated that the Board was given so little time to consider the proposal and its budgetary implications. (Allman replied that they had been working on the grant application for a while and that the timing is controlled by the State, not the Sheriff.) They were also concerned about how the Sheriff would handle the funding of the additional corrections staff for the new unit. (No one addressed how the additional $1 million in annual operation and maintenance costs would be budgeted after the new unit is built, but that’s estimated to be four or five years out, if the project goes forward.) Gjerde wanted to know if or when the existing, aging jail would be replaced. (No answer; not part of this application.)

Pinches wanted to know how the Sheriff came up with the $10 million price tag when there isn’t a design in place. (Answer: Standard $500 per square foot jail cost was used.) Pinches said several times that his colleagues should take such large projects very seriously (since he will have retired from the Board by the time it gets going), but didn’t object to the idea itself. If the state approves Allman’s grant application in January, the County would have to come up with the County share ($500k-$1 million) and design and construction could begin as early as 2014. That money would come from the County’s $9 million-plus reserve fund.

* * *

An Ortner item is scheduled for 1:35pm just before closed session, which makes it look like someone, (probably County Admin), doesn't think there is much to talk about with the new mental health contracts. (Ortner is the owner, basically, of one of Mendocino County's freshly privatized mental health contracts/organizations.) We think it's all quite suspicious, and hope the Grand Jury is also following it. Ortner operates a “secure facility” in Yuba City to which seriously disturbed Mendo persons are sequestered at the rate of more than $800 a day. Pinnizzotto was hired from Ortner two years ago as Mendocino County's mental health director. He was instructed to privatize the County's mental health services. Guess who got one of the most lucrative contracts? Pinnizzotto's old boss, Ortner.

Background, more formally in the County's chaste description: “On May 21st the Board approved two contracts to privatize the County’s Mental Health services. The adult services contract was awarded to the Ortner Management Group (OMG) and mental health services for children was awarded to Redwood Quality Management Company (RQMC). The contracts took effect on July 1, 2013. Services are currently transitioning from Mendocino County HHSA Behavioral Health to OMG and RQMC. This report will cover an overview of the transition process up to the current day and will outline accomplishments and adjustments. Participants in this presentation will be from HHSA, OMG and RQMC.”

In other words the contractors will report on themselves. According to the accompanying staff report, the Yuba City-based Ortner Management Group has subcontracted the actual “service” to several local non-profit organizations who have the following caseloads:

Manzanita Services, Inc. — 52 clients, 2.0 Care Managers total (currently)

Ford Street Project — 9 Clients, 1.0 Care Managers total (currently)

Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center, 30 Clients; 1.5 Care Managers total (currently)

(Supervisory staff not included in above staffing numbers)

Private providers (Therapy) — 13 clients

Medication only clients — 210 clients currently managed by Mendocino County BHRS (Behavioral Health and Recovery Services) to be transitioned to OMG Medication Management providers.

The abbreviated Tuesday presentation will include a fancy report with lots of dazzling colored graphs and charts breaking down OMG’s caseload into every category you can think of (age, gender, race, geography, insurance source, etc.) But there’s no list of problems to be dealt with, no comparisons of staffing or client levels before and after privatization, no mention of the number of persons not served, etc. In other words, the Board will be told by the contractor that everything’s going as well as can be expected with their contract.

There's ten minutes of public expression allotted, but if history is any guide, no dissent is likely. The presentation of the fancy-schmancy charts and graphs will easily take up the 25 minutes set aside. But from what we’ve heard and read, some of it in these pages, there’s lots to talk about concerning the shift from County-run mental health to privately-run mental health. Children's mental health was already being contracted out to Redwood Children's Services with few complaints, so it is no surprise that Redwood has continued in that role without any major problems that we are aware of.

But the private contractor for adult mental health services, the Yuba City-based Ortner Management Group (which probably Ortner and his wife), is another story altogether. Among the issues we know of regarding Ortner (OMG! — as some are referring to them) are those related to OMG’s contracts with community non-profit agencies with a track record of filling the void in county services. What little has historically been done for the County’s walking wounded has largely been done by places like Hospitality House on the Coast, and Ford Street Project and Manzanita Services inland. We hear that Ortner is trying to force down the price of the contracts with these subcontracted agencies by questioning their professional qualifications and knowledge to do the job. It sounds like Ortner is trying to squeeze them out so it can keep more of the profits for not providing services to the mentally ill adults, especially the ones listed in their own charts as “indigent.”

* * *

Gina Soria’s Complaint Re: Anna Shaw (wife of Mental Health Board Chair Jim Shaw) who is now Executive Director of the Hospitality House, the Wellness Center, and the Hospitality Center, the new contractors for Mendocino County Mental Health on the Coast.

"I was one of very few employees at the Coast Community Center who did not get fired by Anna Shaw and the sole employee at the Center before it closed on December 31, 2010. In July of 2010 while I was still working there as case manager for the Shelter Plus Care Program, Anna placed the entire burden of collecting all the data numbers for the Center on myself, so that Anna was able to write the largest grant that would maintain the Center. I felt Anna was pushing me far beyond a normal workload. Meanwhile, Anna was also working simultaneously at the Hospitality House and spent more time there than she did at the Coast Community Center. In October of 2010 Anna was let go from her job at the Coast Community Center because of budget cuts and lack of funding; therefore Ukiah was planning on closing the Fort Bragg office.

“I noticed several incidents of unprofessionalism and how Anna is not a 'people person'; Anna is not truly interested in the welfare of the homeless, mentally ill, and dual diagnosed. I felt that Anna was out for herself. Before the Community Center closed with Anna already gone, I asked Ukiah if I could keep my old, worn computer for my daughter for school, which they agreed to give me. The day before the Community Center was to be officially closed Anna sent Robert, the manager from the Hospitality House to the Center at 7:30am with several men before the office was open to pick up all the things that the Hospitality Director (Anna) wanted, picked up my computer leaving client files thrown all over the floor. Several times my Executive Director tried to call Anna throughout the day with no result. I finally confronted Anna about the issue; she promised she would get me another computer which she never did. On this day I truly felt as if I had been raped, my files were thrown all around on the floor (files of confidentiality), I could not wrap things up with my clients or prepare for files to be handed over to my superiors.

“Anna also took several items without permission from the Coast Center before it was to close. Important for my clients and the families with children were gift certificates to Harvest Market from the Mendocino Community Children’s Fund given to the Community Center. Anna took them to the Hospitality House. When I asked for several, Anna demanded that the families that wanted them had to give signatures in order to get them from Anna. Those certificates should never have been in Anna’s hands after leaving the Coast Community Center. — Gina Soria, Fort Bragg ¥¥

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *