The Los Angeles Angels Major League Baseball team is getting another, controversial multi-million-dollar taxpayer contract to promote mental health in Orange County.
Under the $9 million, three-year contract, the Angels will promote the county’s mental health website OC Navigator, provide 500 tickets to each Angels home game that’s sponsored under the contract, and make Rally Monkeys and bobbleheads with the website logo, among other services.
The contract was approved 3-1 on Tuesday, with Supervisor Katrina Foley objecting.
Foley cited the lack of measurements of whether the marketing efforts – which started in 2019 – have been effective.
“There’s no, really, way to know whether or not that is resulting in any access to resources and services,” she said.
Foley has been asking for that data for months.
She said “it’s really difficult to understand whether or not this significant investment from our Mental Health Services Act dollars is having on impacting that demographic that we’re trying to reach.”
“I really believe that the lack of any kind of a direct mail program, or a direct kind of contact with the demographic of individuals that we are trying to reach, is probably a weakness in this campaign,” she added.
No other supervisor, nor county staff, addressed Foley’s concerns, aside from Supervisor Lisa Bartlett saying they’re “very good points” that should be sorted out before the Angels’ contract comes up for renewal in three years.
County records about selecting the Angels do not indicate any other alternatives were explored for promoting the mental health website.
The effectiveness of the Angels campaign – as opposed to alternatives – has been called into question in the past by the chair of the county’s mental health board.
The Angels ads have often lacked a consistent message or theme, said Matt Holzmann, the chair of the county Behavioral Health Advisory Board, in an interview earlier this year.
“If you’re going to put together a program that doesn’t have that zing to it…it’s not going to work nearly as well,” Holzmann said.
The Angels, which are owned by billionaire Arte Moreno, have said they’re proud of their work, which they charge taxpayers millions for.
“We are proud of our partnership with OC Health Care Agency and the awareness it brings to support mental health in the county,” said Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey in a statement earlier this year.
She declined to answer whether the team’s management or Moreno considered gifting the ads as a public service, in light of the Angels using a taxpayer-funded stadium.
Multi-million-dollar contracts with the Angels and the Ducks hockey team take up a large portion of the county’s mental health outreach budget.
Of the $2.2 million the county spent on suicide prevention outreach during from spring 2020 until late 2021, 83 percent went to the Angels.
“This [Angels] campaign was the only continuously active mental health awareness campaign that was running from April 2020 through October 2021,” a county presentation stated earlier this year.
It’s not the only taxpayer support the Angels are getting.
The team, owned by billionaire Arte Moreno, gets to use the taxpayer-funded Angel Stadium while paying an amount that averages to about $180,000 annually over a recent 12-year period.
Angel Stadium was built by the city of Anaheim in the 1960s for the equivalent of about $200 million in today’s dollars.
That’s roughly $15,000 per month – equivalent to what five apartments rent for locally on average.
The Angels made $100 million in ticket sales at the stadium, as of 2019.
This has left some wondering whether a corporate entity that gets to use a taxpayer facility at bargain basement price should be running public service ads for free.
“I suppose you could argue this is a public service ad and should be provided free,” said Susan Shelley, vice president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, in an interview earlier this year.
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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