On April 7th the County Mental Health Board met, here’s what happened:
What is the Mental Health Board?
The purpose of the Sacramento County Mental Health Board is to champion the rights of those with mental illnesses in Sacramento County. This Board is made up of consumer representatives (a person who is obtaining treatment or support for a mental illness), family members of consumers, and public interest representatives. There are currently 8 active Board members, including Supervisor Patrick Kennedy. The responsibilities of this Board are mandated in the Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 5604.2 and are supposed to include advising the Board of Supervisors and the local mental health director as to any aspect of the local mental health program; reviewing and evaluating the community’s mental health needs, services, facilities, and special problems; reviewing and approving the procedures used to ensure citizen and professional involvement at all stages of the planning process; and to assess the impact of the realignment of services from the State to the County on services delivered to the clients and the local community.
The Behavioral Health Services Director, Dr. Ryan Quist, gave a recap to the Mental Health Board regarding the Board of Supervisors’ latest meeting on the Alternatives to 911 for Mental Health Crises and Quality of Life Calls initiative. He began his recap talking about the federal and state funding opportunities that the County is hoping to utilize for this program. He next moved on to describe how the County was planning to use the CRISIS NOW model for program design, that currently operates in Maricopa County, Arizona and includes a stand-alone dispatch center, mobile crisis response teams consisting of a trained mental health professional and a peer support specialist, and a 24/7 crisis care clinic. He shared that the Board of Supervisors would next hear about this initiative in June during a budget recommendation hearing and then would finalize a funding in September.
Dr. Quist briefly referred to the community feedback gathered during the two community listening sessions held by the County back in the Fall, which included the need for an independent advisory board to be a part of the Alternatives to 911 program. Instead of highlighting the importance of community engagement, he stated that “everyone wants to give their advice” on what this program should be & how it’s done. Not a good look, Dr. Quist.
He then proposed that the Mental Health Board form an ad hoc committee to serve as this advisory board but he was unsure as to what that involvement would include or look like. He also remarked how County staff is spread too thin to participate, and another board member expressed their confusion as to what all the board is supposed to be responsible for. This exact thing is all the more reason why an independent advisory board of community members & peers who have training and experience in this discipline is needed for a successful alternatives to 911 response program for mental health crises.
Numerous community members gave public comment regarding this exact issue. Mostly all of the public comments contained pleas for the following demands:
that the Board empower all the advisory boards to make the kinds of decisions and recommendations that help our community;
to assign a seat per-Board, per-seat type that focuses on non-punitive 911 alternatives;
new advisory board members should be reflective of the racial/ethnic diversity of Sacramento;
and that these new advisory board members should be peers - not cops or clinicians.
It seemed that the Mental Health Board was receiving more information about the Alternatives to 911 for Mental Health Crises & Quality of Life Calls initiative than they have received from anyone at the County level and many of the public comments sparked questions from the Board Members to Dr. Quist. One of the Mental Health Board members asked Dr. Quist for more information regarding the advisory board component of the program, to which Dr. Quist replied that he first needs to know about how much funding will be given for this program since the advisory board would come in during program implementation.
Say WHAAAAT?!?! Bro, the community wants an independent advisory board lookin’ out from the jump - that includes the design process - that means NOW!
After receiving numerous requests for additional information from Mental Health Board members and not being able to give any other answer besides “we don’t know how much funding we’ll have,” Dr. Quist stated that he intended on going back to Ann Edwards, Acting County Executive, to seek guidance on how to proceed.
As one public commenter questioned, “Why is the County Executive's office designing and implementing this program in isolation?”
Why is this important for social justice? Are there important next steps on this issue? What should SJPC readers do?
We don’t need another county program wrapped up in bureaucratic B.S. We need a non-law enforcement crisis response program for mental health crises and quality of life calls because people with a mental illness are 16 TIMES more likely to be killed than other civilians during a police encounter. Police are also more likely to shoot and kill unarmed Black men who exhibit “signs of mental illness” compared to white men. The people who are most vulnerable are the ones falling through the cracks in our public health system. We need an independent advisory board consisting of the real stakeholders - the consumers and other community members - and we need this advisory board to be involved at all stages of the planning process.
The Mental Health Board plans to continue discussion of the item at their next meeting.
Let your voice be heard! Mental Health Board meetings are being held via Zoom until further notice, are open to the public, and members of the community are encouraged to attend. They are held the 1st Wednesday of every month (except December), starting at 6:00 p.m. and typically lasts 2 hours. Meetings can be accessed here: https://zoom.us/j/91529980127?pwd=bUpnL2toNFJydjN0M2xRZXdhaEhBUT09
Take a seat at the table! There are currently EIGHT seats that need to be filled on the Sacramento County Mental Health Board, as follows: THREE due to the resignations of a District 3 family member; consumer members in District 4 and 5; ONE due to the vacant seat of a District 3 consumer representative; and FOUR due to the expired terms of public interest representatives in District 2, 3, and 4, and a District 4 family member - all who are eligible for reappointment upon receipt of a new application. Application filing period will be on a continuous basis.
For further information concerning the functions of this board, please contact Jason Richards at (916) 875-6482 and an application can be found here: http://www.sccob.saccounty.net/pages/boards.html