Sunday, November 22, 2015

[Humboldt County] Local Medical Society Calls for Grand Jury Investigation into Continuing ‘Crisis’ at County Mental Health

The Humboldt-Del Norte Medical Society, a professional organization of about 200 physicians, sent a letter to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors earlier this month sounding the alarm about conditions at the Mental Health Branch of Humboldt County’s Department of Health and Human Services.
The Mental Health Branch had a well-publicized exodus of doctors and nurses earlier this year, with employees decrying gross mismanagement, low worker morale and unsafe conditions for staff and patients. In a Nov. 5 letter to county supervisors (link below), Humboldt-Del Norte Medical Society President Dr. John Nelson says management’s response has been insufficient, and the crisis continues.
“We have seen little in the way of definable progress,” Nelson says, claiming that the administration hasn’t acknowledged the severity of the problems, which would “take pages of written reports” to communicate. “Initial administrative reaction to our prior letter [sent last spring] was one of denial.”
Speaking on behalf of the medical society, Nelson says the problems at Mental Health deserve to be investigated by the Grand Jury, since the county’s own response has been “discouraging.” He goes on to describe a top-down, military-like administrative style and says frontline medical staff should be given more authority and flexibility.
Earlier this week, of course, the county announced the hiring of a new director for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Thirty-two-year-old Kristin Brinks will replace longtime director Phillip Crandall, whose retirement is scheduled to take effect at the end of January. While some critics of the department have expressed hope about the new hire, Nelson describes deep-seated issues, saying there is “a pervasive culture of bureaucratic indifference to the input of employees and the community that is toxic … .”
Back in March, DHHS announced that it was hiring an outside medical staffing firm, Traditions Behavioral Health, to help fill the staffing holes left by the departure of many doctors and nurses over a relatively short period. That firm continues its recruiting efforts, but insiders tell the Outpost that Mental Health Branch employees, including several new hires, continue to leave. Nelson addresses this in his letter.
“Outpatient services are a shell of what they used to be,” it reads. And while salaries have been raised in an effort to attract and retain more qualified staff, “more medical staff are leaving for reasons not related to pay or location. The culture is not changing.” Nelson says attention needs to be paid specifically to the branch’s Alcohol and Other Drugs program, and there should be improved coordination with law enforcement. 
The Outpost reached out to DHHS for a response, and after some scheduling conflicts we agreed to meet with management next week to discuss the issues raised by the medical society.
Nelson, however, is calling for a broader discussion of these issues. “There should be a public hearing on the state of Mental Health before the Board of Supervisors in the near future,” he says.
November 20, 2015
Lost Coast Outpost
By Ryan Burns

Friday, November 20, 2015

[Santa Barbara County] Lompoc Record Receives Grand Jurors’ Association Excellence in Reporting Award

Blog note: A press release on this award was originally posted on November 5, 2015. This is the article published by the Lompoc Record.
The Lompoc Record has received the prestigious California Grand Jurors’ Association 2015 News Media Excellence in Reporting Award for its news coverage of “A Failure of Oversight: Lompoc Housing and Community Development Corporation,” a report issued by the 2011-12 Santa Barbara County Grand Jury.
"It's an honor to receive this award because it results from targeted reporting that in partnership with the Grand Jury, shed light on misuse of taxpayer money and led to change in the community," said Managing Editor Marga Cooley. "It's what local journalism is all about."
The Lompoc Housing and Community Development Corporation was a nonprofit organization that owned and operated homeless shelters and many other affordable housing projects in the Lompoc area.
In January 2012, the corporation closed two homeless shelters on a holiday weekend with five days notice. That fact coupled with complaints of homes in disrepair and defaults on loan payments indicated that the corporation was in serious trouble.
The Grand Jury received several citizen complaints requesting an investigation into what went wrong. By the beginning of 2012, 30 of the corporation’s 42 properties had been repossessed by lenders, placed in receivership or foreclosed upon.
The Grand Jury’s report addressed oversight issues and the steps the County of Santa Barbara and City of Lompoc should have taken to protect the public’s investment in funds loaned to the corporation. The report focused on the relationship between the county and the City of Lompoc as conduits of funds to the corporation as a provider of affordable housing and the monitoring undertaken on behalf of the taxpayer.
The Lompoc Record,, made the Grand Jury’s report available to readers throughout the county and published 25 articles, many of which were written by reporter Carol Benham, describing and following up on the Grand Jury’s findings. The reporting encouraged the Santa Barbara County District Attorney to look into the nonprofit's operations. It also revealed a potential conflict of interest involving a county supervisor.
The California Grand Jurors’ Association is a statewide nonprofit organization of current and former grand jurors throughout California. The association’s mission is “to promote, preserve and support the grand jury system through training, education and outreach.”
The News Media Excellence in Reporting Award program recognizes individuals and media that have created positive changes in their communities and increased awareness of the California Grand Jury system. The award was presented Nov. 19 to Managing Editor Marga Cooley by members of the 2011-12 Santa Barbara County Grand Jury, including Mel Kimlinger, who nominated the newspaper for the award.

Current Grand Jury Foreperson Maria Millsaps, 2011-12 Grand Jury members Pam Olsen, Barbara Breza, Lorelei Snyder, Mel Kimlinger, Travis Gibbons, Jack Snyder, and Mary Frink. Tim Putz, also a grand juror, is not pictured, since he was the photographer. Recipient Marga Cooley is holding the award.

Mel Kimlinger and Managing Editor Marga Cooley

November 20, 2015
Lompoc Record
Staff report

[Marin County] Novato man receives grand juror award

Novato resident Owen Haxton was granted the 2015 Angelo Rolando Memorial Award from the California Grand Jurors’Association this month.
Haxton served on the 2001-02 Marin County Grand Jury and has been active in the Marin County jurors’ association chapter since. He was also president of the county chapter for two years, and he served on the state association’s board of directors. He received the award at an annual conference in Lafayette.
November 20, 2015
Marin Independent Journal
Movers and Shakers, compiled by Adrian Rodriguez

[San Joaquin County] Emails didn’t seem to be ‘strong-arming’

Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I would like to thank Karen Pearsall for her thoughtful response to my letter concerning the Bulletin balancing the recent negative Grand Jury report on the Manteca Unified School District. The fact that the Grand Jury did not interview me or other folks with supportive perspective is noteworthy.
I have been able to view most of the emails associated with the exercise program at August Knodt. To me the emails do not come across as “strong-arming”. At the rough spots they come across as problem solving and overall they come across as mutually supportive.
Among the supportive emails is one from the principal for August Knodt identifying the ELAC committee as the original impetus for moving the exercise class to their campus. The email identifies many positives of having the class on campus including increased participation and school pride.
Pearsall is misinterpreting my support for a conciliatory approach to Ashley Drain and Alexander Bronson as ‘disdain for process’. In my experience recourse to coercive processes such as formal complaints, grand jury reports, recalls and litigation are approaches that best follow gentler approaches. This is the idea that informs the restorative approaches to discipline that are improving education at MUSD’s schools.
It remains my hope that continued dialog can increase MUSD’s moments of “sweetness and light Kumbaya collaboration”. Such moments were evident in the Bulletin’s editor sweating together with Trustee Sam Fant and many parents at August Knodt. More moments should be forthcoming since the board agreed last Tuesday to hold study sessions in each of MUSD’s major communities.
November 18, 2015
Manteca Bulletin
Letter to the editor from Leo Bennett-Cauchon, Manteca