Thursday, October 30, 2014

[San Joaquin County] Grand jury called county’s best kept secret

By Glenn Kahl
POSTED October 29, 2014 12:58 a.m.
It’s been described as “one of our county’s best kept secrets.”

The duties and responsibilities of that “best kept secret” — the San Joaquin Civil Grand Jury —were outlined to the Ripon Chamber of Commerce Governmental Relations Committee members last week in a noontime session at Bethany Town Square Apartments on Main Street in Ripon.

Jurors are impaneled for the course of a year from July through June.

Grand jury secretary Kenneth Buck told the group that agreeing to membership in the 19-member panel brought with it a fulltime job, saying a few have been able to fill its requirements even when owning their own businesses or even managing a business. Due to the intensity of service, most members are retired, he said.

He added that research committees of two jurors each are allowed to interview sources and do research independently at home on their computers, later reporting back to the full panel.

The Ripon committee was told that the jury acts as a “watchdog” in responding to community concerns and issues through the panel made up of 19 citizens. A final report is handed over to a judge to guarantee efficiency in governmental responsibility throughout the county.

For full story, go to

Police need more training to deal with mentally ill, L.A. County told

Blog note:  This story has no direct connection to the Los Angeles Civil Grand Jury, but we believe it is a topic Ms. Lacey will address in her talk to the CGJA Annual Conference in Burbank on November 13

A consultant hired to find a way to divert the mentally ill from Los Angeles County's jail system found that not enough law enforcement officers were trained to handle people undergoing a mental health crisis.

In a report made public Wednesday, the consultant found that more resources were needed to train police officers, dispatchers and other criminal justice workers on how to deal with people with mental illness, and that law enforcement agencies should expand the use of special teams that respond to people in crisis.

The county, the report by GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation concluded, puts "insufficient resources" into its mobile response teams, the report found.

The center was hired by Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, who is heading a task force focused on the mental health issue. The task force intends to develop a detailed proposal for county supervisors to consider early next year.

The report also found that there weren't enough safe places for officers to take people with serious mental health issues.

"It's often more time-efficient for law enforcement to book an individual into jail on a minor charge ... rather than spend many hours waiting in a psychiatric emergency department for the individual to be seen," the report said.

The report also recommended expanding an existing county program that places social workers in the courts to identify defendants who might be candidates for diversion, putting a pre-trial release program in place for such defendants, and placing more social workers in the jails.

The county has been under pressure to change the way it handles mentally ill defendants as a result of a federal investigation into conditions in the county jails and failure to prevent inmate suicides.

It appears increasingly likely that the county will find itself changing the system under a consent decree overseen by a federal judge.

Lacey said in a telephone interview that the GAINS Center report provides an "outline" of the gaps in the system, but a large amount of work remains to be done.

"It's going to take a while to implement a lot of the recommendations of the report, because they involve so many different agencies," she said. "My takeaway is, it's doable — it's just going to take a whole lot of work."

Some smaller law enforcement agencies have voiced concerns about officers being taken off the job for lengthy training sessions. District attorney officials said those concerns were being worked out in meetings with several local law enforcement agencies, but a clear countywide training plan had not been reached.

After expanded crisis intervention training, Lacey said, the top priority is sharing information and data among agencies. For instance, she said, the county needs to find a way for mental health professionals to share information with law enforcement, without violating patients' privacy rights.

The percentage of inmates in county jails who are mentally ill has increased by 89% since 2011 and now stands at 17% of the male population and 24% of the female population, Lacey said earlier this year.

Los Angeles County supervisors agreed last month to set aside $20 million to expand diversion programs for mentally ill offenders, but have yet to devise a specific plan.

The county is expected to move forward soon with setting up crisis centers where police can bring suspects with clear psychiatric issues instead of to jail or overcrowded emergency rooms. And a pilot program recently launched at the Van Nuys courthouse will divert mentally ill people charged with low-level crimes, offering them transitional housing, medical treatment and job-hunting help.

Monday, October 27, 2014

San Bernardino Fire Department gives AMR 25% of 9-1-1 medical calls

October 26, 2014
San Bernardino County Sun

Blog note: we post this article because it references a grand jury report in another county that made recommendations that a San Bernardino County agency might consider (see red highlighted text below). Officials in one county read grand jury reports on other counties.

SAN BERNARDINO >> The Fire Department has handed off one of every four medical calls to a private ambulance company each of the past two months, part of a new program to reduce workloads and response times to reach a target the city has missed in recent years.
In both August and September, firefighters received nearly 2,800 calls for emergency medical service, and immediately gave about 700 lower-priority calls to American Medical Response, which works out to 26 percent of calls in August and 25 percent in September, said Battalion Chief Nathan Cooke, who oversees the program.
“The ultimate goal is to get our average response time down,” said Cooke, who doesn’t yet have numbers showing that happening but hopes he soon will. “The average response time from the time someone dials 9-1-1 is 9:50, and we want that within 8 minutes.”
San Bernardino used to have such a priority dispatch system, in which paramedics from AMR respond to nonlife-threatening calls so that firefighters aren’t stretched too thin. But the program ended in 2012, after AMR dropped out of an 11-year-old agreement because the city wasn’t meeting its contractual obligation to arrive at 90 percent of calls in less than 8 minutes.
The program revived Aug. 1, once the city got permission from the Inland Counties Emergency Medical Agency, as recommended in a report by Citygate Associates.
“The policy question becomes, ‘At what cost can the Fire Department respond to every call for assistance as if it is a life and death emergency?’” the report said. “In so doing, the Department is wearing itself and its equipment out. More importantly, while responding emergency medical incidents, the Fire Department is not available for an appropriate level of fire suppression, given the City’s risks, which unfortunately is an all-too-necessary service in San Bernardino.”
Medical calls account for 87 percent of the calls the Fire Department receives. That’s significantly higher than a national average of 67 percent reported in 2013 by the National Fire Protection Association, and it’s a number that’s increased in recent years as health insurance became more difficult to acquire and the Great Recession hit.
Priority dispatch is helping, Cooke said, as the Fire Department weathers spikes of incidents.
He said he’s unsure how it will fit in with the closure of Station 10, on the corner of Mill Street and Arrowhead Avenue, as well as a downsizing that will leave station 4 on E street north of Highland with medic capabilities but no hose. Those cuts were approved in June, as part of a budget that eliminated $2 million from the Fire Department but also added two dispatch positions (three dispatch hires and the elimination of a dispatch manager) to accommodate priority dispatching. The closures were then made part of a contract the city imposed this month, and went into effect Saturday.
“Citygate didn’t recommend closing those stations, and removing any station increases the call load on the others,” Cooke said. “You can never know ahead of time where emergencies are going to happen or when.”
While other aspects of the city’s approach to the Fire Department — closing a station, imposing benefit cuts, looking into outsourcing all paramedic services — rank-and-file firefighters generally say they approve of the priority dispatching switch, at least tentatively.
It’s also going well from AMR’s perspective, said Diana McCafferty, manager of administration for AMR San Bernardino County.
“The system is working very well in San Bernardino with their EMD program,” McCaferty said, referring to emergency medical dispatch. “We’ve not encountered any hiccups.”
McCaferty said San Bernardino was the only one of the agencies AMR contracts with locally that “triages” calls this way. But it hasn’t had a discernible impact on the agency, because they already responded to all calls — it’s just that now they’re sometimes the only ones there, instead of firefighter paramedics arriving just before or just after.
An ambulance will sometimes have to wait at a hospital, but there are plenty more available, she said.
Arguments against Measure Q, which would amend a section of the city charter that sets police and firefighter salaries, have said Measure Q would allow the city to outsource paramedic services.
Officials including City Attorney Gary Saenz, Mayor Carey Davis and City Manager Allen Parker have said they’re unsure what effect the ballot measure will have on that, but the city is studying the possibility regardless of whether it passes.
In August, City Manager Allen Parker asked for and received permission from the City Council to seek proposals from other agencies that might want to contract with the city for fire service, including paramedics.
And earlier, he asked the previous fire chief to study a Santa Clara Grand Jury report advising reorganization of fire services in light of the increasing role medical services play for fire departments.
But offloading some medical calls that don’t need to be handled by firefighters is a policy that makes sense on its own, which is why prior fire chiefs recommended it, Parker said.
“It’s appropriate,” he said. “It was recommended by the fire consultant. It’s something that needed to be done in order to focus on more relevant duties.”

[Sutter County] Off Beat: Team Sutter wants answers – from Team Sutter

October 26, 2014
By Harold Kruger

Sutter County supervisors have suddenly become inquisitive.
They want answers, and they want them, well, maybe next year.
Yes, the board earlier this month voted to ask the grand jury to investigate what the heck has been going on in the District Attorney's Office.
Wow!! Now???
Interestingly, the supervisor who made the courageous motion to seek the grand jury inquiry is James Gallagher, who just happens to be running for an Assembly seat.
He can now proclaim he's taken the bull by the horns after the horse left the barn.
So the grand jury, which may choose to ignore all of this, is being to asked to investigate misuse of a state grant and how the DA's Office managed to not prosecute a sheriff's deputy in a domestic violence case.
Regarding that misuse of grant money, the former district attorney explained all of that many months ago to the board. The supervisors didn't seem to have any qualms then.
Maybe they've just wised up. Or maybe they're just slow to awaken from their collective slumber.
A lot of weird things have happened in the last few years, and a lot of lawsuits were settled for something more than nuisance value, but this board really doesn't bother to offer much insight into those, or express any concern.
But now they can shovel all of this stuff in the direction of the grand jury (an august body in Sutter County) and let it issue a report next year when nobody will care.