Santa Rosa, CA – July 7, 2020 – The Board of Supervisors today voted unanimously to approve the creation of an Office of Equity for the county with instruction to immediately focus on issues related to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Latinx and indigenous communities in the region.
The creation of the independent Office of Equity follows years of strategic county initiatives in collaboration with local nonprofits and community leaders who have come together to elevate the need to address racial inequities within Sonoma County.
“Recent natural disasters including the fires of October 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic have served to underscore the disproportionate challenges communities of color face on a daily basis,” said Susan Gorin, Chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “Meanwhile, we’re in the midst of a national awakening of the need to address social and racial inequities at all levels. The urgency is real. The time to show that this is a top priority for Sonoma County is now.”
The Board of Supervisors took a key step in that direction in January when, during a strategic planning session, the Board committed to making “Racial Equity and Social Justice” one of the pillars for its revised Strategic Plan. County staff, including SoCo REAL (Sonoma County Racial Equity Alliance and Leadership), SoCo LERN (Sonoma County Latinx Employee Resource Network), and the Human Resources Department, reviewed different government models to elevate equity work within our county structure. The recommendation for the creation of the Office of Equity has also been supported by the Board’s Equity Office Ad Hoc Committee, which includes Chair Gorin and Supervisor James Gore.
Modeled after independent Offices of Equity in Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, the Sonoma County office will serve “as the backbone entity to propel the County’s equity efforts forward and the central hub to connect County departments and the County’s overall efforts to evaluate its policies, programs, and services,” according to the county staff report.
Among its responsibilities, the Office of Equity will:
The new office will be overseen by an Equity Officer, who will serve as a department head reporting to the Board of Supervisors. The Board is anticipating appointing a qualified interim Equity Officer at its July 14 meeting. Staff is expected to come back before the Board on Aug. 4 with a plan to launch a full recruitment for a permanent director.
April 4 2020
Sonoma County’s COVID-19 tests are being processed about equally by the county public health lab, Kaiser Permananente’s in-house lab and Quest Diagnostics.
Quest accepts tests from the broadest range of patients but, as the first private lab to offer testing for coronavirus, is still trying to catch up after its capacity was overwhelmed in the early weeks of the outbreak. It claims an average turnaround time of four-to-five days for results but has often taken 10 to 13 days.
Kaiser Permanente runs its members’ tests in-house, returning results within about 12 hours, a spokesman said. But it tests only those in high-priority categories, including hospitalized patients with signs and symptoms of the disease; symptomatic older adults and individuals with chronic medical conditions or compromised immune systems that put them at risk for poor outcomes; and health care personnel with exposure to a suspected or confirmed case within 14 days before the onset of symptoms or who have a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of their symptom onset.
The county health lab can conduct up to 100 tests a day with a turnaround time of 24 hours or less, but its tests are reserved for the highest priority patients, identified as individuals with signs and symptoms (fever not always present) compatible with COVID-19 and:
Hospitalized and significantly ill
Healthcare personnel including first responders with direct contact with patients
All other first responders (i.e., fire and law enforcement)
Lives in or works at a long-term care facility
Inmate or works at a jail or prison
Contact Sonoma Public Health at 707-565-4566 for testing consultation of individuals that meet the above criteria. Testing of asymptomatic individuals is not recommended.
March 26, 2020
...More than 200 nonviolent offenders approaching the end of their sentences and other inmates awaiting trial for low- level crimes are being released from Sonoma County jails to reduce the risk of the coronavirus entering the detention facilities.
...Prosecutors on Wednesday additionally agreed to expand releases for inmates booked on new misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence and those convicted of the crime who can instead complete their sentences through home confinement, Pozzi said. These inmates will be required to wear tracking devices to ensure they comply with terms of their sentences.
...The releases are being done to prevent the virus from entering and spreading through the county’s two adult jails, Pozzi said. Jail systems throughout the Bay Area, including in San Francisco and Alameda counties, have made similar reductions to their inmate populations since the coronavirus was discovered in the region.
Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or email@example.com.
Pat talks with Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County Public Health Officer & Bert Whitaker, Director of Sonoma County Regional Parks about the Shelter In Place and the impact of overcrowding on park closures
Concern over overcrowding of restrooms increased risk of spreading corona virus
KSRO 1350/103.5 Sonoma County’s News Talk
KSRO 1350/103.5 Sonoma County’s News Talk
(AUDIO) - Pat talks with Dr. Jess Rael, M.D. Radiologist at Sutter Health, about the lack of medical supplies, community donations, personal protective equipment and program expansion:
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
March 22, 2020, 8:43PM
...Mase has promised to release demographic information once the case total reaches 50 and she is confident releasing information won’t identify patients or violate federal privacy law.
Officials have long expected the number of cases to grow, pointing not just to the nature of pandemic spread, but also increased testing capacity. When Mase issued her shelter-in-place order Tuesday, just 168 people had been tested for coronavirus. By Sunday night, that number had jumped to 528.
Sonoma County has joined with 11 other counties to hire Imperial College London to turn that testing data into hyperlocal modeling, with officials expecting at least rough results within the next two weeks....
(Interim Medical Officer for Sonoma County Dr. Sundari Mase, a former CDC and World Health Organization official. )
En Español: Para obtener información en español, visite nuestra página del Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).
March 17, 2020 4:11 PM
Directing all individuals living in the County to shelter at their place of residence, except that they may leave to provide or receive certain essential services or engage in certain essential activities and work for essential businesses and governmental services; exempting individuals experiencing homelessness from the shelter in place order but urging them to find shelter and government agencies to provide it; directing all businesses and governmental agencies to cease non-essential operations at physical locations in the County; prohibiting all non-essential gatherings of any number of individual; and ordering cessation of all non essential travel.
DATE OF ORDER: MARCH 17, 2020
Please read this Order carefully. Violation of or failure to comply with this Order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both. (California Health and Safety Code§ 120275, et seq.)
Posted on: May 29, 2020
Addressing Homelessness During the Public Health Emergency
During this public health emergency, the City of Santa Rosa has been working on several fronts to assist individuals experiencing homelessness, so as to protect this vulnerable population and the community at large from greater spread of COVID-19.
Those individuals at greatest risk of from COVID-19 — those age 65 and over or with underlying medical conditions — have been moved from shelters and encampments into hotel rooms or referred to the County’s Non-Congregate Shelter at Sonoma State University. For others at less risk from COVID-19, the City-owned Samuel L. Jones Hall Homeless Shelter has been reconfigured to ensure appropriate social-distancing accommodations for its residents. Additional social-distancing opportunities have been offered through the creation of the Safe Social Distancing Program, which has been set up temporarily at the Finley parking lot site. For those individuals who remain in encampments despite these opportunities, the City, in collaboration with the County, has provided access to sanitary facilities, facial masks and medical services, all in an effort to lower the risks of infection.
Actions to Resolve Encampments in Parks and the Public Right of Way
Despite the City’s efforts during this time, encampments in several areas of the City have grown increasingly in size and density. This has been of great concern to the City, and we understand that it is for many members of our community as well. The City has been monitoring these areas closely and working with its contracted outreach provider, Catholic Charities’ Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) to encourage individuals to relocate to the shelter options available to them, including Samuel L. Jones Hall Homeless Shelter, Safe Social Distancing Program, the Non-Congregate Shelter at SSU, and other sites.
While the City has encouraged individuals to voluntarily relocate to these safer situations, the City has not forcibly moved people, following the guidance of the Federal Centers for Disease Control, which generally advises against dispersing existing encampments to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The extreme conditions at several encampments, however, have now reached a tipping point, raising such serious public health concerns that the City believes that further action has become imperative.
This week, given the severity of the conditions created by encampments, the Santa Rosa Police Department began to take action to address the most serious sites. The first efforts were to address increasing health and safety concerns related to homeless encampments in Doyle Park and along Doyle Park Drive. In the area of Doyle Park, critical health, safety, and environmental issues were identified by the Police Department, Santa Rosa Fire Department, and the City’s Water Department necessitating removal and clean-up of the encampments. This project included vehicle abatement, enforcement of criminal activity including probation and Fish and Game violations, and mitigation of potential fire risks. Conditions in this location had created health and safety risks requiring immediate action. All actions taken by the City were designed to address the immediate public health and safety imperative within the overall context of the City’s ongoing efforts to stop the spread of the virus to every extent possible.
Similar conditions also call for immediate action at encampments located under the Highway 101 overpasses in the Downtown corridor and College Avenue, as well as at Corporate Center Parkway. Efforts to address the encampments in the Highway 101 overpasses will begin next week. Towing unregistered vehicles and addressing unsanitary conditions at Corporate Center Parkway and neighboring streets will follow soon thereafter.
Ensuring Those in Encampments Are Offered Available Services and Shelter
During all of these encampment resolution efforts, coordination of services and shelter is being offered by the Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST), including services and shelter at Samuel L. Jones Homeless Shelter, access to the Safe Social Distancing Program located in the parking lot at Finley Community Center, Non-Congregate Shelter at SSU, and other sites. Through the provision of shelter and service options, our goal is to ensure that individuals experiencing homelessness have the opportunity to move into safer, more sanitary conditions, to ensure that they have access to needed health and social services, and to minimize the inadvertent relocation of individuals to other areas of the community without protection. As crowded encampments clear, a thorough cleaning will be undertaken at each site to protect the public health of the surrounding neighborhoods. The City’s Public Works Department coordinated the clean-up of Doyle Park and will do so for the other affected areas as well.
The Longer Term Plan
The SSDP at the Finley parking lot, hotel room accommodations, and Non-Congregate Shelter at SSU are all temporary measures aligned with the COVID-19 public health emergency, and City staff are planning for the eventual closure of those options. Longer term solutions must be established, and we are working in partnership with the County to explore and implement those solutions. We will keep the community informed of our efforts moving forward.
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
July 2, 2020, 7:39PM Updated 19 hours ago
The deaths of a man and woman discovered by their daughter in their Petaluma home Thursday morning are being investigated as a possible murder-suicide, the Petaluma Police Department said in a news release.
The couple’s daughter was distraught when she reported the deaths to police at 9:53 a.m. on Shenandoah Court, near Sonoma Mountain Parkway and Rainier Avenue on the east side of town, authorities said.
The first officer arrived at the home less than a minute later and confirmed what the daughter had initially reported. Both of her parents, who were inside the home, had been shot, the Police Department said.
A firearm that officers suspect was used in the deaths was also found inside the home, though the agency did not elaborate on where the weapon was found, or its proximity to either the man or the woman.
It was unclear why police suspect the couple may have died from a murder-suicide and officers did not immediately respond to attempts to reach the department for more information Thursday.
The agency declined to identify the pair pending death notifications by the Sonoma County Coroner’s Office.
Petaluma police ask anyone with information about the pair’s deaths to call Detective Matt Parnow at 707-778-4444.
You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @nashellytweets.
Santa Rosa, CA – May 19, 2020 – En EspañolToday the Board of Supervisors approved the Department of Health Services (DHS) to establish a Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF) called the Sonoma County Healing Center.The PHF will be located at the former Valley of the Moon Children's Center (VOMCC) located at 7440 Los Guilicos Road in Santa Rosa and DHS has contracted with Crestwood Behavioral Health, Inc., to operate the PHF that will provide much needed acute care psychiatric beds to County DHS. The County anticipates the PHF will open as soon as the end of 2020 or early 2021.The addition of a PHF to the local mental health services system of care is a significant advancement for Sonoma County. Currently, residents must endure lengthy wait times to receive these services in other counties, often, which are far from home.“The County, including DHS, and our community hospital partners Kaiser, Providence St. Joseph, and Sutter have been working for some time to establish a psychiatric health facility of our own in the community,” said Board Chair Susan Gorin, whose district also included the facility. “For far too long people in need of acute mental health services would have to leave the County to obtain them. This facility will allow people to continue to live in the community, while receiving the appropriate level of care.” She added, “I would also like to recognize our hospital partners for providing the resources to support the County to establish this facility.”The PHF will be a 24/7 locked 16-bed facility providing short-term treatment to individuals experiencing mental illness. The establishment of the only PHF in Sonoma County will improve services and result in cost savings to the County.The PHF will be a component of the mental health system. Patients at the PHF will receive intensive psychiatric treatment for an average of eight days. All patients will be enrolled in County mental health services, which will authorize services, transport patients to the facility and transport individuals discharged from the facility to their home or longer term treatment settings.“Without a PHF, the County currently cannot meet demand for psychiatric inpatient hospitalization. There simply are not enough beds in the area for the amount of persons needing acute care,” said DHS Director Barbie Robinson. “The Department estimates the shortage of acute inpatient beds impacts dozens of County residents every month. In addition, there are significant impacts on our law enforcement system and hospital emergency rooms where many individuals could be better served in a PHF.”The PHF will be operated by Crestwood Behavioral Health, which is an accredited, Sacramento-based healthcare provider, in operation for over 50 years. Crestwood is a leading provider of mental health services in California, operating 33 programs across the state.Crestwood will provide recovery-oriented mental health services designed to meet the needs of adults, older adults and transition-age youth with mental health issues, with more than 1,800 licensed beds, in more than 24 California campuses-ranging in size from 12 to 194 beds.To date, DHS and Crestwood have presented to local residents living near the PHF regarding the site, operation and clientele to receive services there.This program will provide important support as individuals continue their recovery from mental illness. The focus is to help clients stabilize, gain self- reliance, build strengths, and independence with structure and support. The program utilizes psychosocial rehabilitation, healing arts, life skills, and peer providers to support stabilization and recovery.“Establishing this program lets us take a very important step toward improving psychiatric care in Sonoma County, and hopefully better outcomes for individuals,” said Bill Carter Behavioral Health Services Division Director, DHS.###
On May, 19, 2020, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved the establishment of the Sonoma County Healing Center!The PHF will be located at the former Valley of the Moon Children's Center (VOMCC) located at 7440 Los Guilicos Road in Santa Rosa and DHS has contracted with Crestwood Behavioral Health, Inc., to operate the PHF that will provide much needed acute care psychiatric beds to County DHS. The County anticipates the PHF will open as soon as the end of 2020 or early 2021.
ANNE WARD ERNSTINDEX-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER May 25, 2020, 4:36PM
A much-needed county psychiatric health facility was approved by county supervisors last week and will be established at the former location of the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.
This will be the only such facility in the county and is planned to open by the end of 2020 or early 2021, said Susan Gorin, 1st District Supervisor.
“This facility is vitally important to Sonoma County and Marin County. We have lost all of our facilities able to provide intensive behavioral health services to residents,” Gorin said. “It is beneficial to reuse an older facility that has been vacant for over a decade.”
Without such a facility, local residents must seek services in other counties, taking them far from home, and because of a shortage of acute care psychiatric beds patients have to wait long periods for services. The County Department of Health Services has been working with community hospital partners Kaiser, Providence St. Joseph, and Sutter to institute a facility in the county. Having a facility in the county will result in cost savings, as well.
“Behaviorally challenged individuals or those experiencing mental health crises reside in hospitals and the County Crisis Stabilization Center for weeks or months as there are few or no facilities to treat their challenges. Other facilities are located out of the county and are very expensive for the county to refer them,” Gorin said.
The former children’s home at 7440 Los Guilicos Road on the eastern edge of Santa Rosa will need some renovation to create the 16-bed facility that will be locked around the clock and provide short-term treatment for people with mental illness. The average stay is expected to be eight days of intensive psychiatric care, and the county’s mental health services will authorize additional treatment and transportation from the facility to the patient’s home or a facility that can provide longer-term treatment.
“Without a PHF (psychiatric health facility), the county currently cannot meet demand for psychiatric inpatient hospitalization. There simply are not enough beds in the area for the amount of persons needing acute care,” said Department of Health Services Director Barbie Robinson in a press release. “The department estimates the shortage of acute inpatient beds impacts dozens of county residents every month. In addition, there are significant impacts on our law enforcement system and hospital emergency rooms where many individuals could be better served in a PHF.”
This focus of the program will utilize psychosocial rehabilitation, healing arts, life skills and peer providers to build structure and support around patients who are adults, elderly and transitional-age youth.
The facility will be operated by accredited Sacramento-based healthcare provider Crestwood Behavioral Health, which has been operating for more than 50 years, operating 33 programs in California.
“Crestwood has an excellent reputation in opening up and operating these facilities,” Gorin said.
Contact Anne at email@example.com.
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
June 12, 2019
Petaluma Mental Health Clinic on the Chopping Block
May 31, 2019
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
May 21, 2019
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
September 11, 2019
"But Robinson said she would balance the budget even if state or federal funding doesn’t grow, leaving a dwindling list of options, including the following: painful budget cuts, a pledge of more general fund money from county supervisors or a successful ballot question in November 2020.
Rabbitt said he’ll ask about the ballot measure Wednesday, saying he was surprised at the strong public support for mental health — support Rabbitt said mirrored what one might see in San Francisco.
“The numbers may not be able to get any higher,” Rabbitt said. “It was overwhelmingly supportive.”
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
May 16, 2019
Santa Rosa, CA – March 7, 2016
County's Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center Opens with New Capacity Level
Behavioral Health's Access Team Also Located at Urgent Care Center
Located on Challenger Way and Corporate Center Parkway, the 14,066-square-foot facility is 65 percent larger than the Oakcrest site on Chanate Road. Once at full capacity, some 60 employees will be working out of the urgent care center, including a number of peer workers.
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
June 8, 2018
Michael Kennedy, who was director of Sonoma County’s mental health services division for nearly a decade before he went on paid administrative leave in early March, resigned from his position more than five weeks ago after brokering a settlement deal with the county governing terms of his exit.
The details of his resignation and the settlement deal came to light this week through a public records request filed by The Press Democrat. His job status had been in question since his leave began March 5, shortly after his superiors in the Department of Health Services backed off a controversial proposal to dramatically reduce its mental health and substance abuse staff by nearly 32 positions to partly close a $2.6 million budget gap.
Sources in the local mental health community, including county staff members, say Kennedy opposed many of those cuts. Kennedy’s boss, Barbie Robinson, director of the health services department, has blamed inaccurate revenue projections, increasing costs and declining revenue for the fiscal crisis.
But the settlement reached by Kennedy and the county prohibits either side from elaborating on such allegations or counter claims by Kennedy. It also curbs any investigation into his conduct on the job by the county and absolves him of any wrongdoing, stating that “there has been no finding of any misconduct on his part.”
Kennedy and Robinson ?declined to comment about the circumstances surrounding his departure and the negotiations that resulted in the settlement. It extends his paid leave to July 5, when Kennedy will be allowed to use any unused sick leave and then any unused vacation to “accrue service credit for purposes of retirement.”
He earned $176,820 in pay and $39,152 in benefits in 2016, according to county payroll records. His 2017 compensation was not made available this week.
Under the terms of the settlement, Kennedy, 62, will not be allowed to return to work for the county or any of its agencies or districts.
Kennedy’s division is proposed to shoulder the bulk of a proposed set of Health Services staffing cuts amounting to $8.2 million. Up to 107 vacant and filled jobs could be cut. The Board of Supervisors will take up those decisions in hearings starting next week.
Kennedy submitted his resignation letter on April 30 and Robinson responded in writing on May 11.
“This is to confirm that you have voluntarily resigned in good standing from the County of Sonoma Department of Health Services,” Robinson wrote in her letter.
Robinson declined this week to say who was responsible for the years of budget deficits in the county’s behavioral health division, which provides mental health and drug abuse services. In an email Thursday, she said responsibility for the shortfall was “a shared one” and that the county was taking full responsibility for it.
“There will be no finger-pointing or placing blame on any one person or department or division,” Robinson wrote.
Kennedy, reached by phone in Santa Rosa, would not discuss the specific reasons for his paid leave or resignation. He said that he started thinking about leaving his post shortly after the wildfires last October. That was when health services officials began signaling the need for staff and service cuts. But Kennedy would not say if his decision was directly related to the proposed cuts.
“It became clear to me that it wasn’t a fit anymore,” he said. “I felt like the department and the county was changing direction in how they were looking at the provision of services.”
At the beginning of his leave, the county appointed its top staff psychiatrist, Michael Kozart, as interim director to fill his post, signaling to many in the division that Kennedy was unlikely to return. In her email, Robinson said Kozart has been “instrumental” in helping to restore financial stability to the behavioral health division and “we don’t see a transition in his position anytime soon.”
Kennedy said Tuesday that he was proud of his 43-year career in behavioral health, which began as a counselor at Poughkeepsie Children’s Home in New York when he was 19.
He worked in San Francisco for 21 years, including eight years with emotionally disturbed children at Edgewood Children’s Center as a supervisor and training coordinator and 13 years developing and managing services for homeless youth and young adults at Larkin Street Youth Center.
In 2001, Kennedy landed a job with Sonoma County’s mental health division, working as a section manager for forensic and special programs. In 2008, Kennedy took over as county mental health director, replacing departing director Art Ewart. Kennedy became director of the behavioral health services division in 2010, when the county combined both its mental health and substance abuse services.
During his time at the helm for behavioral health, Kennedy sought to beef up community-based mental health and substance abuse services provided by local nonprofits. That effort is part of a decadeslong national trend aimed at reducing the cost of treating people in mental health institutions such as locked psychiatric facilities.
Kennedy said he’s proud of the work of county behavioral health staff, and his part in helping to build the local system of community-based care.
“I believe my job was to increase capacity and services to provide for better access and responsiveness for individuals with mental health and substance use disorders,” he said in an email.
Robin Bowen, executive director of Child Parent Institute, one of the county’s contractors for behavioral health services, said Kennedy was a strong supporter of mental health services.
“He was very concerned about the needs of the community,” she said.
Robinson has come under fire from local nonprofit executives in the wake of the proposed cuts to services, which would slash more than $10 million in county contracts.
She said her department’s mission is to continue providing the highest quality services to the county’s most vulnerable populations, including those who suffer from serious and persistent mental illness, providing them with food, clothing and shelter.
”Beyond this core set of services to our target population, we will endeavor to provide the highest quality services possible within available resources,” Robinson said.
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @renofish.
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
March 8, 2018
Sonoma County plans to replace its mental health and substance abuse services director, Michael Kennedy, who went on paid leave this week as part of a major administrative shakeup just days after his division narrowly avoided significant layoffs while still bracing for large cuts in county-funded outpatient services.
Kennedy has been on leave since Monday and Dr. Michael Kozart, the Health Services department’s medical director and lead psychiatrist, has stepped in to fill the role on a temporary basis, according to Christina Cramer, the county’s personnel director. Kennedy could not be reached for comment Thursday. County officials would not elaborate on the circumstances of his job status, including whether the leave was ordered or voluntary, or whether he was set to return to work in a different post.
“I can tell you he’s on leave,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a longtime advocate for county mental health services.
Kennedy, whose base salary is $169,975, has been the division manager of behavioral health services since 2008. He was previously a section manager of the division from 2001 to 2008.
His leave came less than a week after the county backed off a controversial proposal to dramatically reduce its mental health and substance abuse staff by nearly 32 positions to partly close a $2.6 million budget gap.
The plan was widely criticized by many in the local mental health community who said such cuts were poorly timed in the face of the ongoing challenges stemming from last year’s devastating fires.
Facing deficit, county mental health division curtails extra-help staff
The extent of the budget shortfall last year was pegged at $11 million before the elimination of about 40 temporary jobs in the division. County officials have blamed the gap largely on a change in the way the state provides certain funds for mental health services, saying other counties faced similar challenges.
Barbie Robinson, the county’s director of health services and Kennedy’s boss, earlier this year said “imprecise” forecasting and revenue projections for federal Medicaid dollars were behind the shortfall. She did not call out Kennedy in her comments, but budgeting for the division was under his oversight.
Robinson on Thursday declined to comment on Kennedy’s leave but indicated he would not be returning to his post. She said Kozart was filling in until an “interim behavioral health division director” is found.
Robinson said an interim director is being sought because Kozart has too many other responsibilities as medical director to fill in for an extended period of time. She said the county is seeking an interim director because for Kennedy “is still in his position.”
Last week Robinson shelved the plan for layoffs after the county was granted a one-time distribution of $2 million in state substance abuse funds.
Unless additional funding is secured, Robinson is expected to seek formal approval for cuts to about 47 provider contracts. Those cuts would save the county $1.6 million it pays for Medi-Cal patients.
But it would also mean a loss of funds the federal government contributes to Medi-Cal, the state’s version of the Medicaid program. Several local nonprofit service providers have already been asked to brace for major cuts to their current annual budgets. The cuts could be a severe blow to community-based behavioral health services, said Robin Bowen, executive director of Child Parent Institute, a Sonoma County-based parent education and children’s mental health agency.
Bowen, whose organization is one of the programs facing budget cuts, said Kennedy has been an “asset to the community” and has worked hard to bolster the role of local nonprofits in providing mental health services at a lower cost than the county.
“I feel badly for him,” Bowen said. “It’s an unfortunate situation and everyone is working their hardest to try to come to some sort of resolution.”
Mary-Frances Walsh, executive director of the Sonoma County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said she was saddened by the news about Kennedy.
Walsh, whose organization is facing cuts, said Kennedy had a deep understanding of the importance of families in caring for those with mental illness.
“When families are involved, there’s a much higher probability that the individual is going to be looked after,” she said.
Sonoma County has a chronic shortage of psychiatric hospital beds. As as a result, a growing number of mentally ill residents are ending up in local emergency rooms and in the jail system. A four-part series, run on four consecutive Sundays, examines the causes and ramifications of the current state of the county’s mental health system, and the people who are impacted the most.
Connie Petereit, Healdsburg
Lashone Gulley, Petaluma
Janie Haggerty, Cotati
Dennis Dowd, Santa Rosa
Victoria Mataragas, Santa Rosa
This report was produced as a project for the California Health Journalism Fellowship, a program of the Center for Health Journalism at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or email@example.com. On Twitter @renofish.
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