Monday, August 4, 2014
(Plumas County) Grand jury says A&D, mental health have a poor image
July 29, 2014
Plumas County News
By Dan McDonald, Managing Editor
The county’s mental health and alcohol and drug programs need an image makeover.
That’s the recommendation of Plumas County Grand Jury in its newly released 2013-14 report.
The report, which is included as a supplement in today’s paper, credited both departments with making positive strides. But it said both should do more.
The jury said both departments — which have suffered from revolving-door leadership changes and negative press — need to improve communication with the criminal justice leaders and other county departments.
The jurors recommended each department launch a public relations campaign to repair its public image.
The grand jury conducted six investigations for this year’s report.
In addition to A&D and mental health, the jurors reiterated the need for a new county jail. They said all three departments were feeling the strain of the Assembly Bill 109 Inmate Realignment.
The jurors were also critical of the county for not knowing what buildings it owns — or at least not having a reliable list of assets readily available.
In another report, the jurors wondered why a committee that is supposed to conduct an annual county audit hasn’t done so in two years. They noted the audits stopped after the county fired its chief administrative officer.
While the grand jury highlighted problems in each of its investigations, the jurors refrained from the harsh criticism found in recent reports.
In fact, the report commended the county recorder’s office “for its fine work” in the way it handles the election process.
Absent from this year’s report was the usual strong criticism of the county supervisors.
Following is a snapshot of all six grand jury investigations.
Alcohol and drug
The grand jury said the Plumas County Alcohol and Other Drug Services Department (AOD) hasn’t been providing adequate services.
The jury noted the department has faced an uphill battle after being shut down from 2008 to 2012.
They said the department’s instability over the years “has occurred simultaneously with an increase in drug and alcohol addiction among Plumas County residents.”
The department’s closure, coupled with three new directors in three years, has added to the problem.
The report stated AOD didn’t clearly understand its role in the county’s Alternative Sentencing Program. The program is designed to help inmates (up to 70 percent of whom have drug and alcohol issues) re-enter society.
Adding to AOD’s challenges is a lack of staff and facilities. The jurors found the department doesn’t have the resources to handle its caseload and public outreach.
Instead of having a detox facility available, correctional officers at the jail are often overseeing individuals withdrawing from alcohol and drugs. “It’s dangerous and potentially life threatening,” the jurors wrote.
The grand jury recommended that AOD hire more help, using money from federal grants.
It also recommended that AOD be integrated into a behavioral health services model along with the mental health department.
The jurors suggested AOD work with Plumas District Hospital on a plan to transport intoxicated people who are willing to go to a medical detoxification facility rather than the county jail.
AOD needs to launch a public relations campaign immediately, the jurors said. It needs to quickly repair its public image and let the public know what it does.
Finally, the grand jury recommended that at least one county supervisor be delegated to help the new AOD director revamp the department.
The grand jury said it didn’t plan to investigate the Plumas County Mental Health Department. But during its AOD investigation, the jurors said they kept hearing about “a lack of coordination” with mental health.
A series of newspaper articles about the department’s leadership changes and a high-profile teen suicide prompted the jurors to investigate.
While the jurors were complementary of the department’s new director for his ideas, enthusiasm and communication with the county supervisors, they identified many procedural problems — particularly a lack of coordination with the sheriff’s office. They said mental health “needs to get proactive and plan for increased needs and step up in support.”
“There have been decades-long historical problems concerning the sheriff’s department in the coordination of 5150s (individuals at risk of harming themselves or others), in determining that an individual’s problem is not alcohol or drug related, and insufficient therapy for inmates at the jail with mental health related problems,” the jury wrote.
The jurors said mental health, like the AOD department and the local criminal justice system, has been strained by the AB 109 population.
Mental health has also been impacted by the Affordable Care Act. The result is an “ever-increasing” wait list.
The jurors recognized mental health’s effort to shorten the waiting list, which it has done. But the grand jury said the department needs to add staff and should consider changing its protocol to better assist law enforcement.
Among the grand jury’s recommendations were that mental health “implement measures to increase trust and communication by creating mental health and HIPAA (privacy rule) trainings with the Sheriff’s Department and re-examine the 5150 hospitalization and release procedure.”
The grand jury said mental health, like AOD, needs to improve its image with the public. The jury recommended the department “immediately launch a public relations campaign to repair its public image and increase its profile.”
The grand jury reinforced the recommendations of previous juries in calling for a new jail.
The jury said it continues to be a safety hazard for corrections officers, inmates and the community.
Until a new facility is built, the jury recommended “some minor low-cost improvements” including repairing security systems and cameras.
They grand jury said the jail still needs to increase staff. It also needs to do a better job of screening inmates before placing them in dormitory cells.
The jurors said dormitory rooms should separate the sentenced inmates from the non-sentenced inmates to reduce conflicts.
The jury was impressed with the jail’s inmate work program. They recommended expanding the program to include more and varied tasks.
“This program could be used to construct/install physical security measures at the jail to better protect the facility,” they wrote.
The grand jury said it was surprised the county couldn’t provide a list of buildings that it owns.
The jurors discovered the lack of a comprehensive list when they wanted to check them out for any potential liabilities and possible revenue-generating recommendations.
“We were not able to properly identify, by district, what the county owned, how a building was being used, potential environmental hazards, or if buildings were being adequately utilized, let alone, if there were buildings available for potential business use,” the report stated.
The jurors recommended that the facility services department build a list of county-owned properties by Sept. 30. It should include a description of the building’s current use, value and the condition of the structure.
They recommended the list be updated every year.
Members of the jury visited the Plumas County Elections Office four times during the investigation. And they liked what they saw.
Two members of the jury observed the Plumas County registrar of voters elections process Nov. 5, 2013.
“It’s a well-run department,” the jurors wrote. “Procedures have been carefully worked out over the years and are followed by the elections processors.
“The Grand Jury would like to publicly commend the Elections and County Recorder’s Office for fine work.”
“Who are they and what do they do?”
That was the title of the grand jury’s report of this investigation.
According to the county, the Board of Supervisors, on Oct. 3, 2006, passed a resolution to establish a Plumas County Audit Committee.
The committee is supposed to include the county auditor/controller, the county administrative officer, the county treasurer and two members of the grand jury.
However, the grand jury said the committee hasn’t met for two years.
“Confusion exists as to what the purpose of the Audit Committee is for and because of this, convening the Audit Committee on an annual basis is not a priority for the members for the committee,” the jurors wrote. “It’s unclear who is responsible for convening the Audit Committee.”
The grand jury said the supervisors should revisit the purpose of the committee and decide if one is needed.
“The county does not appear to be following its self-imposed obligation as required by statute,” the jurors wrote.