Orange County supervisors, who are in charge of more than $100 million per year in mental health funding, have decided to take a closer look at gaps in the county’s mental health system that were pointed out by a grand jury in June.
A county news release Wednesday announced that two supervisors – Lisa Bartlett and Andrew Do – have formed an ad-hoc committee to “examine gaps within the County’s mental health system and present recommendations to their colleagues early next year.”
“Finding ways to help those with mental illness is an obligation we have as a society,” said Do. “The more we can do to help people, the more everyone benefits.”
The announcement follows county grand jury reports that raised concerns about mental health services, and recent Voice of OC articles about a $200-plus million buildup of mental health dollars and oversight concerns about that funding stream. Also, The Orange County Register has reported on a shortage of psychiatric beds.
What’s not mentioned in the news release, but was reported by the Register, is that the committee will include two seats for representatives of hospitals, who have had an influential presence among supervisors in recent years.
In addition, Bartlett and Do plan to get input from county agencies, “the medical community and law enforcement.”
The release doesn’t mention any desire to gather input from the public, such as people with mental illnesses or their advocates.
It’s also unclear if the committee’s meetings will be open to the public or held in secret. Messages to the county Thursday seeking clarification on that didn’t yield an answer.
Supervisors’ ad-hoc committees created without a full board vote, such as this one, have traditionally met behind closed doors.
Wednesday’s announcement was unusual in that supervisors usually give scant attention to mental health services. For instance, when the county’s $164 million Mental Health Services Act yearly spending plan went to supervisors in June, they passed it without public discussion, other than one question for staff.
Over the past two years, the county has processed over 18,600 mental health referrals and linked about 17,200 to services, according to the county’s release.
The county also has created 118 housing units for people with mental illnesses, with another 29 units under construction, according to the release.