California’s protection & advocacy system

For legal assistance call 800-776-5746. For all other purposes call 916-504-5800 in Northern CA

or 213-213-8000 in Southern CA. TTY 800-719-5798.


California Healthline

May 7, 2010

Sacramento County Sued Over Planned Mental Health Care Cuts

On Thursday, disability rights groups filed a class-action lawsuit against Sacramento County over proposed cuts to mental health services for thousands of low-income patients, the Sacramento Business Journal reports.
Disability Rights California, the Western Center on Law and Poverty and Cooley LLP filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Sacramento on behalf of five indigent country residents who receive care through programs that could be eliminated (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 5/6).

Defendants named in the lawsuit are:

  • Sacramento County;
  • The county Board of Supervisors; and
  • County officials who administer outpatient mental health services.

Mental Health Care Cuts

County administrators said the cuts are necessary to eliminate $17 million from the county's behavioral health budget.

To offset the cuts, the Department of Behavioral Health Services has proposed expanding its Adult Psychiatric Aftercare Clinic and opening four new outpatient mental health "wellness centers" that would be run by county workers.

However, private care providers said the plan would disrupt care for numerous patients and cost more to manage. They added that the proposal would result in more patients going without treatment and crowded emergency departments.

Lawsuit Details

The lawsuit alleges that the proposed elimination of certain services on June 30 would result in thousands of residents with mental illnesses being "exposed to increased harm or injury and death" (Hubert, Sacramento Bee, 5/7).

The lawsuit also argues that the proposed cuts violate federal and state laws, such as:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act;
  • The Rehabilitation Act;
  • The Medicaid Act; and
  • Federal and state constitutions.

The plaintiffs are seeking a court order to bar the county from cutting medically necessary mental health services without first demonstrating that replacement services are available, a transition plan has been created, and patients receive adequate notice of changes and have the right to appeal them (Sacramento Business Journal, 5/6).