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The Orange County Sheriff’s Department is in the midst of a $250 million renovation of the Musick Jail in Irvine in order to create a Re-Entry/Recovery Center. This will be a first in California where inmates can receive services, job training and other tools to help break the cycle of recidivism.
At the same time, Mind OC, the public/private non-profit created as a part of the Be Well initiative have opened a behavioral health wellness center in Orange costing $40 million in public and private investment in order to provide crisis response, crisis residential, addiction treatment and other services. Another 22-acre campus is on the drawing boards.
These are three very high-profile projects.
In addition, hundreds of millions of emergency dollars have been flowing into Orange County’s coffers for services ranging from Covid 19 testing and health care, homelessness services, business support, and many other short-term projects.
Our county government and its private sector partners should be commended for a massive investment in innovation, but the devil is in the details. The problem is that these decisions have been made top down by a small number of people with little transparency and accountability.
To a great extent the most important stakeholders, the community, have been left out of the process. In addition, there seems to be no strategic plan for integrating all of these new, shiny structures and services to transform our care system itself into a more effective, more compassionate and more efficient system.
In fact, the community voice has largely been sidelined as our Supervisors do as they please with hundreds of millions of dollars in funds earmarked for specific types of services, especially in the behavioral health sector. No one seems to be minding the store.
I would suggest that in the interest of the entire community, the community be heard. We need a strategic plan. We need leadership. We need engagement. We need transparency. And we need accountability.
The current crisis is not just a pandemic; it is an economic crisis as well. Hundreds if not thousands of businesses will never re-open. Tax revenues will be hard hit.
And yet the demand for services has never been greater. The behavioral health consequences of this crisis will be felt for many years ahead. Drug and alcohol use has grown at a never before seen pace while anxiety and depression are rampant.
Massive federal support has filled some of the gaps this year, but moving forward we will have to do more on our own while maintaining a new and improved system of care. This can only be done with greater collaboration and engagement with stakeholders at all levels. We have think smart and act wisely.
We need transparency, accountability and open dialog more than ever.
Matt Holzmann lives in Anaheim and is an executive in the electronics industry, family member of an individual with a mental health diagnosis, and community leader.
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