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Business Journal

July 21, 2010

County mental health treatment centers to stay open while court reviews new wellness-center plan

By Kathy Robertson

A federal judge has ordered Sacrament County to halt its new plan for outpatient mental health services for thousands of patients until the court determines the change will allow patients to continue to receive the care they need.

Faced with a budget gap of $17.5 million for mental health services alone, the county plans to move about 5,000 patients from regional support centers where they currently get care to new wellness centers operated by county staff between Aug. 1 and Nov. 1.

The court order comes in a class action filed by disability advocates in May that alleges the plan violates federal and state laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Medicaid Act and federal and state constitutions.

Plaintiffs are being represented by Disability Rights California, Western Center on Law and Poverty and Cooley LLP. Worried that mental health consumers will suffer irreparable harm if county officials proceed with the plan, disability advocated filed papers in June requesting a preliminary injunction against the revamp.

It was granted Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez in Sacramento.

“This is such a relief to know that the centers we’ve been depending on to keep us anchored in the community will stay open,” lead plaintiff Leslie Napper said in a news elease. “My elderly father and I share a home and he depends on me for a lot of support. With access to my usual providers, I’m confident that I can stay on an even keel and avoid my previous need for inpatient services.”

County officials were not immediately available for comment, but it is common county policy to not discuss active litigation.