County moving along on new Chico Behavioral Health Center, promises 24 hour staffing

17 May

Thanks to David Little for the reminder – I had meant to continue my rambling narrative of the Local Government’s Committee meeting I attended a week or so back, because they discussed the county Behavioral Health Department. Little wrote a pretty generic “remember National Mental Health Month” piece, without really knowing what’s going on locally, cause he didn’t attend or send a reporter to that meeting. Typical Chico media – the News and Review ignored it too.

But I’m glad for the reminder – the Behavioral Health Department is central to Chico’s “homeless problem.” The BHD is responsible for taking people who “are a danger to themselves or the public” off the cops’ hands. For years now the center on Rio Lindo has been inadequate, open only Monday through Friday from 9 – 5, as if people only have mental breakdowns during the work week. After 5pm and on weekends, Chico police officers who get calls about indigent, inebriated, injured or “crazy” people must dump them like a sack of laundry on the staff of Enloe Emergency Room. Here, they become Enloe’s problem, and their unpaid bill becomes another unpaid liability for Enloe. Oftentimes, since they haven’t been arrested (because then the police would be liable for the bill), they just get up and wander out when they feel like it. Staff can’t stop them. 

How’d you like to wake up with a ringing hangover in a hospital bed, somebody presenting you with a $30,000 bill for a one nighter? Last I heard, Enloe charges $7,000/hour for the ER, and another $7,500 a night for a room (old figures, probably more now). Per person.  You can’t force somebody who was not willingly checked in to pay, so there we are.

I have heard the cops complain about this at various meetings with city and local agency staff. This problem has been in discussion for at least two years now, according to my notes from Police Advisory Board and other meetings. 

Little, in his editorial that sounded like a C grade high school research assignment, talks about the “white card” program instituted by the county a year or so ago, by which people who have sought treatment for mental problems receive a card that tells police they have mental problems, essentially – “I’m crazy, I’m not responsible for my behavior, please don’t kill me for acting weird…” 

This is not a solution to the problems around Chico – shoplifting, vagrancy, armed robbery, burglary, public filth, vandalism, arson, assault/murder, and other criminal activities associated with the little army of the night we have camped out in our town. 

At the Local Goverment Committee meeting I attended earlier this month, county staffers announced they are in escrow on a property that will become the new BH center for Chico, located near the Enloe facilities on Cohasset Road. Staff said this facility would be staffed and open 24-7, suited for 10 “clients” at a time. The discussion was over before I could ask about funding for staffing, or why those salaries are so much lower than the management salaries, but that would be a good question for you to send in to County Administrative Officer Paul Hahn. Hahn is a nice guy and will answer your questions to the best of his ability. He’s also very sharp and competent, so don’t waste his time. It’s just good to let him know your concerns.



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