I sent a note to District 3 supervisor Maureen Kirk, asking about the results of the $1 million grant the county received to beef up Behavioral Health services. I reminded her – Chico PD has complained that there are no staff to take care of people “who are a danger to themselves or others,” the police are in the habit of handing them over to nurses at Enloe Emergency Room. This is not only a problem for Enloe staff and other patients in the ER, it’s a financial problem for the hospital, who does not receive any reimbursement for these “patients.” Another problem is, once the police leave, hospital staff is not able to force them to stay, and they oftentimes just leave as soon as the cops are out the door. Problem not solved.
I wrote a rambling note to Supervisor Kirk, complaining that “sit and lie” and “clean and safe” have only driven transients out of the Downtown area and into the rest of town, especially the Vallombrosa and Mangrove corridors. She responded that she knew this was a problem. She described the city’s strategy as “whack a mole.” She’s right – they’ve whacked them underground, and they’ve popped up at the CARD center, and Rite Aid parking lot, and the post office annex, etc. That’s just my neighborhood, I can’t say what’s going on around town, but I’ve also noticed the usual concentration out at East and Esplanade, near the new Raleys, is growing. They had a stabbing in the East Ave Raley’s parking lot a week or two ago, and one morning I witnessed a little hobo fight in the parking lot, where they congregate to turn in their recyclables. At that time, it just looked comical, now I realize, those dirty old fuckers are packing – they pretty much have to if they don’t want to get stabbed and robbed by another one of their buddies. I told a city committee about similar incidents when I was a college student in Sacramento, and some of them actually made fun of me, acting as though I was making it all up.
Kirk forwarded my inquiry to staff, and got this answer:
We are moving along with program implementation in the ERs – Enloe included. We have many of the staff hired (though not all the staff – we are finding some challenges recruiting for the evening shift staff) – and will hopefully be interviewing a new group of candidates next week or the week after. Our IT departments are working together and are almost finished with setting up the secure internet connections in the ERs. Finally, we have completed site visits for Medi-Cal certification and are just waiting for State/Federal response. Our Crisis Manager is working with Enloe to begin setting up training for staff. I am hoping that program start-up (at least at Enloe) will begin in early to mid September. We are also working to get triage personnel in the shelters during this same time frame.
> In the meantime, we continue to provide the mobile crisis services at the ER as we always have.
Yeah, I’ll bet they’re having “challenges recruiting for the evening shift staff”! Who wants to do a job like that for $30 – 35,000 a year? Are we talking about people with any training? Well, they likely had to go to college and work long internships to get that training. They’re older people by now, maybe have kids? But they’re expected to do a job like that, at night, for a salary that won’t even pay the rent. much less car expenses. And what about child care – who has a child care center open all night? Don’t say “the spouse,” a lot of people are single parents these days. On a salary like that, they’d have to be on food stamps to make ends meet.
I’d also like to respond to the comment the staffer made at the end. I won’t call her a liar, but the cops said there is no “mobile crisis service,” and that’s precisely the problem. The cops bring in these lunatics covered in their own excrement, and there they sit in Enloe ER, oftentimes until they become able to motor themselves out the door. Nobody picks them up after 5 or on weekends, that’s the precise problem, but the staffer denies it. Denial is a major part of this problem.
I asked Maureen Kirk if she actually expected a $30-35,000 employee to deal physically with these people when the $100,000+ psychiatrist they hired won’t even be coming into the same room with them, but she hasn’t got back to me. Kirk makes about $58,000 salary as supervisor and also enjoys health and pension benefits, although I don’t know how much of that she pays. I asked her if she would take a night position at Enloe to deal with mentally disturbed street people for a lousy $30-35,000/year. Maybe she’ll come over to the blog and talk to us about this problem.
The short of it is, we still have a major problem here, and it’s not getting any better.