Saturday, July 1, 2017
Monterey County Civil Grand Jury recommends establishment of new mental health facility
Salinas >> A request that the Board of Supervisors fund the building of a new mental health facility was among the recommendations made by the Monterey County civil grand jury in its 10 reports released earlier this week.
The civil grand jury is an investigatory body made up of community members that is assembled each fiscal year. At the end of each term, a final report is issued summarizing its investigative findings and providing recommendations for study and action. Agencies named in the report are required by statute to respond to the findings and recommendations within 60 to 90 days of the report, depending on the agency.
A report titled Monterey County Jail Crisis: Our De Facto Mental Health Facility looked into a 2013 class action lawsuit against poor conditions at the jail and the changes made by the county in the years following the settlement.
The lawsuit alleged the jail delayed medical treatment for inmates, provided deficient mental health care and suicide prevention measures, failed to provide reasonable accommodations for inmates with disabilities and failed to protect inmates from violence.
According to the civil grand jury report, the jail serves as a “de facto mental health facility” because approximately 45 percent of its 900 inmates deal with mental illness. The Sheriff’s Office, which operates the jail, made changes pursuant to the settlement in including a registered nurse replacing a deputy conducting medical evaluations as detainees arrive, an addition of nearly 300 cameras to monitor inmates and measures to prevent suicide such as fences along stairs and second-floor platforms and new duct-work and ventilation covers with smaller covers that make it harder for inmates to weave sheets through them.
The report found that Natividad Medical Center is the only publicly funded mental health center in Monterey County and the only facility with lock-down capability, explaining it has 22 beds dedicated to mental health.
“This number is woefully short of what is needed to provide barely adequate care for the mentally ill in Monterey County,” the report states.
Among its findings, the report pointed to a significant number of state hospitals that closed during Ronald Reagan’s administration, which led to the jail becoming a de facto mental health institution.
“Inmates, suffering from mental illness, did and can wait months and even longer before being transferred to a state hospital and receive treatment,” the report states. “This is cruel and inhumane.”
After declaring “there is a great need for a stand-alone mental health facility in our county,” the report recommends the Board of Supervisors study repurposing the soon to be vacant portion of the jail, the soon to be vacant juvenile hall or the Fort Ord stockade as a site for mental health care. It recommends the supervisors look at Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties, where mental health facilities are integrated within the jail. It also recommends the supervisors continue to providing funds for county agencies to participate in statewide initiatives, which deal with incarcerated patients with mental health issues.
The grand jury recommends integrating Monterey County Behavioral Health Agency’s services with the jail rather than contracting the duties out to California Forensic Medical Group.
NORTH SALINAS VALLEY MOSQUITO ABATEMENT DISTRICT
Following the discovery of a travel-related infection of Zika virus infection in Monterey County in July 2016, the grand jury chose to take a look at the North Salinas Valley Mosquito Abatement District.
The district monitors mosquitoes through several methods including sentinel chicken flocks and insect traps. Insect traps are inspected for mosquitoes, glassy wing sharpshooters and other insects.
The grand jury recommended the district continue to monitor Salinas, Marina, Seaside, Sand City, Del Rey Oaks, Monterey and unincorporated North County. If a need is found, the grand jury recommends the district expand to cover the entire county.
The grand jury issued a brief report on the Marina City Council failing to issue a response to its 2015-2016 report in 90 days as requested. The city issued a response in January on the use of body-worn cameras by police officers.
“The City of Marina’s blatant failure to cooperate with the Civil Grand Jury and comply with the requirements set forth in California Penal Code Section 933.05 was unacceptable and risked incurring legal expenses if the Civil Grand Jury took legal action to compel compliance and sanctions if the City failed to comply with the court order,” the report states.
The grand jury took a look at traffic congestion in the county and to the surprise of few commuters found that problems remain for the daily drive between Salinas and the Monterey Peninsula. The report also found that troubles with tourist routes to the Peninsula remain unresolved.
Following concerns of hacking or rigging in the 2016 presidential election, the grand jury chose to investigate the county Elections Department and find if there is a potential for hacking of the electronic voting machines.
The investigation found no evidence of rigging or hacking in the 2016 election, though it called the electronic voting machines purchased in 1998 “very outdated and expensive to maintain.”
In another report, the grand jury recommends that cities and agencies that maintain historical documents should create a catalog and index.
The grand jury also issued reports on Salinas Valley State Prison and the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad. Among the findings was a degree of tension between the correctional officers and inmates at the prison that wasn’t apparent at the training facility. The report said the difference could be attributed to the difference in security levels. The grand jury found the Department of State Hospital – Salinas Valley “to be extremely well run both administratively and operationally.” It found the Correctional Training Facility to be a well-managed facility fulfilling its primary mission.
Earlier, the grand jury issued a report on an insufficient number of deputies because demands from the jail while recommending the Sheriff’s Office hire deputies directly for patrol or the jail.
June 30, 2017
By Tom Wright