Mystery Surrounds Mental Health and Transportation Contractor

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With questions raised recently surrounding a secret report, it’s unclear if county supervisors will move forward and renew contracts this week with a mental health and transportation vendor.

At last week’s supervisors’ meeting, board members were vague about their concerns, but they apparently center on issues being looked at by the Orange County Transportation Authority or OCTA.

The transit agency has been preparing a report on the contractor, Orange-based Horizon Cross Cultural Center, which transports seniors to medical appointments and provides peer mentoring services for people living with mental illness.

The supervisors apparently are considering changing the new contract to a month-to-month agreement for now.

County leaders are making sure they’re “not jeopardizing the service to this population,” said Supervisor Todd Spitzer at last week’s meeting.

“We’re not privy to discuss” that information publicly, he added, describing public discussion of the issue as “very awkward.”

“I’m not having this conversation in this way. It’s not appropriate, for a whole variety of reasons,” said Spitzer, asking that the talks be taken into closed session for this week’s meeting.

The agreement is now back for a vote on Tuesday, with a closed session item listed for “anticipated litigation” and another for “initiation of litigation” against unspecified parties.

Despite concerns about the firm being expressed publicly by supervisors, this week’s county staff report makes no mention of the OCTA inquiry.

Representatives of OCTA and Horizon couldn’t be reached for comment over the weekend.

Horizon was formed in 1976, a year after the fall of the South Vietnamese government and at a time thousands of refugees were fleeing the country and seeking safety in the U.S. The organization, according to its IRS filings, provided English classes and instruction on how to become a U.S. citizen.

According to the transportation agency, Horizon has received funding through Federal Transit Administration grants, OCTA’s Senior Mobility Program, and adult day health care transportation.

Under their current contract, Horizon serves people across the county who are living with long-term mental illnesses and either have been hospitalized for psychiatric issues, or are at risk of such hospitalization.

The goal is to help people transition from the hospital to living in the community, with services like counseling, help with acquiring food, clothing, transportation and assistance with getting to medical appointments.

The new $1.1 million one-year contract would have Horizon serve about 660 people, according to county officials.

The new contract first showed up on the county agenda in early May and has been delayed three times.

In May, Horizon presented OCTA with a Cultural Diversity Award, “in acknowledgement of OCTA’s funding and support for Horizon programs and services.”

The contract is scheduled for a vote at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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