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Sacramento Business Journal

June 9, 2010

Group seeks injunction to stop Sacramento County mental health cuts

by Kathy Robertson

Disability advocates returned to U.S. District Court in Sacramento on Wednesday seeking a court order to stop Sacramento County from its proposed revamp of outpatient mental health services by the end of June.

Disability Rights California, the Western Center on Law and Poverty and Cooley LLP filed a complaint in federal court May 6 alleging the proposed plan violates federal and state laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, The Rehabilitation Act, the Medicaid Act and federal and state constitutions.

Faced with a budget gap of more than $17.5 million in behavioral health services alone — and rules about outside contracting when county jobs are at stake — county staff has announced plans to replace existing centers with new county-run clinics staffed by county employees.

Two other plans have been proposed; a recommendation for how to proceed will be discussed at a public hearing June 16. There’s talk of a possible delay in implementing the new plan for up to three months.

Worried that mental health consumers in Sacramento County will suffer irreparable harm if county officials proceed with their plan, disability advocates filed papers Wednesday requesting a preliminary injunction against the revamp and a court hearing July 7.

“We depend on these services and trust the people who operate them,” lead plaintiff Leslie Napper said in a press release. “It is so upsetting to find out this life-saving assistance is about to disappear. And then what?”

County officials were not immediately available for comment, but they didn’t comment on the initial lawsuit because it is contrary to county policy to discuss active litigation.