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Sacramento County's expert report on its mental health program confirms ideas raised by clients in their lawsuit against the County

As part of an interim agreement in the lawsuit (Napper v. County of Sacramento) filed by Disability Rights California, the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and Cooley LLP to prevent Sacramento County from closing its network of contracted providers of outpatient mental health services, the County hired an outside expert to assess its adult mental health program.

The County’s expert team, headed by Nancy Callahan of IDEA consulting, vindicates many of the ideas expressed by our clients in the lawsuit. Released publicly on May 10 (Independent Expert Review: Final Report – Sacramento Adult Mental Health Services Delivery System 05.10.11), the team’s report includes what Ms. Callahan describes as a transformative vision for County mental health services. Under this vision:

Individuals who need acute and sub-acute services will receive them in the most appropriate and community-based level of care possible. In-patient services will be utilized when all other community-based services have been exhausted. Individuals in crisis will be supported and treated by programs that focus on wellness and recovery and use a range of options, including crisis stabilization, crisis residential, psychiatric health facilities, and sub-acute services. The system will be more cost-effective by utilizing inpatient service facilities that can capture Medi-Cal revenue, whenever possible.
Additionally, the report:

  • reinforces the Plaintiffs’ view that the Wellness and Recovery Model of outpatient mental health services is effective;
  • recognizes the value of peer support and peer-run programs across the continuum of mental health services;
  • underscores the Plaintiffs’ views that the inpatient services, including services at the behemoth Mental Health Treatment Center, should be reduced in favor of outpatient services and crisis services that will help clients avoid the possibility of hospitalization;
  • clarifies how downsizing the mental health treatment center will help the County draw down much-needed federal funds;
  • affirms the value of the community-based programs run by the current contract providers and recommends consolidating the two County-run programs into one; and
  • finally, notes that any plan to implement its recommendations should be based on the input of consumers, providers and other stakeholders.

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Disability Rights California was founded in 1978 as California’s protection and advocacy system to provide direct assistance to people with disabilities in implementing their rights.  The Western Center on Law and Poverty, founded in 1967, works statewide for system-wide change to secure housing, health care and a strong safety net for low-income Californians.  Cooley LLP, a nationwide, full-service law firm that received the 2009 State Bar of California’s President’s Pro Bono Service Award, is assisting in this case on a pro bono basis.