Grand Jury releases report on county mental health services
Report titled, ‘A safe harbor or a perilous journey for those in need?’
– The 2021-2022 San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury recently investigated specific aspects of the mental health services provided by the County of San Luis Obispo and its contractors. The jury found four discreet areas that require immediate attention and action to ensure the safety and security of county residents needing help and the professional staff who provide services to them.
Patients experiencing a mental health incident who are deemed to be a danger to themselves and others, a group known as 5150 patients, have the distinct possibility to spend as long as three weeks in an emergency room at one of four hospitals in the county before being placed for treatment. Many times, it is outside the county unless they are indigent or medical eligible, according to the jury. These incidents place a hardship on the hospitals who have to dedicate resources to “sit” with them and can not use the facilities for other patients, the jury reports.
The county has what the jury calls “a patchwork system of unfocused administration” for these patients with three groups, Mental Health Evaluation Team, the Crisis Stabilization Unit, and the Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF) responsible for different aspects of evaluation and treatment with varying criteria for use of facilities and availability of treatment. Jail inmates are regularly transferred to PHF for treatment without continuing incarceration protocols in place creating safety concerns for patients and staff.
Juvenile mental health services are not available in the county for persons designated as 5585, the designation for those under 18 like 5150 for adults, in any facility. Coordination between mental health service contractors and county staff while continuously communicating has been demonstrated to be strained on several occasions, according to the jury report.
The jury recommends revising the means of treatment using a single, responsible authority using a revamped facility where patients can be examined, screened, and prepared for treatment outside of private emergency rooms. All patients who need mental health services should be seen regardless of their status to pay.
The jury also recommends better security for PHF while treating jail inmates. The current security system contractor has failed to meet the needs of the PHF.
Full transcripts of all grand jury reports are at https://www.slo.courts.ca.gov/gi/jury-grandjury.htm
This website also provides information on how to apply to become a grand juror. It also has the “Grand Jury Citizen Complaint Form” available for the public to submit complaints.