Supervisors Award $20 Million in Mental Health Service Contracts

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

October 8, 2021

County Supervisors have awarded over $20 million in contracts to providers of mental health services, both inside and outside of SLO County.

In its annual renewal of contracts for services, the Supervisors awarded some 10 grants to service providers of in-patient care, out-patient care and residential care for those struggling with eating disorders, drug addiction and mental health problems.

The County Health Agency’s Behavioral Health Department contracts with various private agencies, “to provide services appropriate for individuals who have been identified by American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) as needing residential withdrawal management and/or residential treatment services,” reads a County staff report. “Clients receiving treatment in an RTF benefit from the structure and stability provided by an environment free of drugs and alcohol while concurrently receiving treatment. These facilities are critical in helping an individual to recover and become self-sufficient.”

Among the contracts the County signed was a new deal with Bryan’s House Recovery of Atascadero, a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility, expanding an initial 9-month contract (reached in November 2019), and increasing the contract amount by $15,700 to a new total of $847,200. The contract will now expire in June 2022. 

“Residential treatment costs have increased due to the higher than anticipated number of client placements during FY 2020-21,” the County report said. “Previous amendments have extended the duration of all contracted RTF vendors for one-year; added Sun Street Centers treatment sites in Hollister, Calif., for women and women with children, and King City, Calif., for men and women; and added grant requirements and program guidelines to all vendor contracts.”

The County has RTF contracts with Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Maria; Sun Street Centers in Salinas, King City and Hollister; and Tarzana Treatment Centers in Tarzana and Lancaster, Calif., with a total contract amount of over $1.6 million.

In another aspect of mental health, the Central Coast Treatment Center of SLO for $540,000 “to provide eating disorder treatment services to high-risk youth and adult Behavioral Health clients.” These patients are through Medi-Cal, the state health care program for indigent citizens.

The 1-year contract would “provide partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment, and outpatient treatment services tailored to the needs of adolescents and adults with serious eating disorders.” The service is mandated by the State of California.

But the County will have to enter into contracts with other ED care providers, as the Central Coast Treatment Center does not have residential services. “Having multiple providers will allow for timely placement in all levels of care,” the County said. “All contractors for these services will share a single pool budget amount not to exceed $540,000 for FY 2020-21.”

The contract with the CCTC was not a competitive bidding process because EDs are “often life threatening, and specialized treatment is needed as soon as possible.”

The Family Care Network, Inc., got a $5.26 million 1-year contract “to provide mental health services for high-risk children and youth aged 5 to 21 throughout the County.”

FCNI is a private, non-profit agency that was begun in 1987 “with the purpose of creating family-based treatment programs as an alternative to group home or institutional care for children and youth. The agency’s mission is ‘to enhance the well-being of children and families in partnership with our community.’” 

FCNI runs 17 different programs and the County is involved in six of them. This County contract, will help ensure that children aged 5 to 21, who are seriously emotionally disturbed or suffering from a serious mental disorder get treatment.

The contract has two options to renew for an additional year, as decided upon by the County Health Agency Director, and thus will not need Supervisor’s support.

Sierra Mental Wellness Group was awarded a 1-year (2021-22) $3.81 million contract to provide mental health crisis intervention services “in addition to providing expanded services that reach underserved populations, as directed by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). Sierra Mental Wellness Group is specially trained and competent to provide these services.”

Sierra Mental Wellness Group has clinics in Roseville, Auburn and Tahoe City. The agency provides mental health counseling to children, adolescents and adults in individual, group, family, and couple modalities. They also provide crisis response services in Placer, Colusa, Nevada and San Luis Obispo Counties, according to the group’s website.

Sierra Wellness will provide staff at Sierra Vista, Twin Cities and Arroyo Grande Hospitals to assist in evaluating patients in the emergency rooms with mental health issues and facilitate their being transferred to inpatient facilities, and refer them to local resources and services.

“The goal of these services,” the County said, “will be to reduce the lengths of stay in emergency departments for patients in psychiatric crisis and facilitate appropriate discharge to the community, to the Crisis Stabilization Unit, to County inpatient psychiatric facility, or to other receiving psychiatric facilities as appropriate.”

Community Action Partnership of SLO (CAPSLO) was given a 1-year contract for $576,000 to provide mental health services to children and adults.

The Board of Supervisors in January approved the Mental Health Services Act Annual Update and Three-Year Expenditure Plan, which included services for the Collaborative Re-Entry Program, part of AB109, the 2011 Public Safety Realignment Act, which covers the Sheriff’s Department, County Probation and Behavioral Health.

CAPSLO’s contract and is “geared to reach the underserved and/or un-served populations of San Luis Obispo County.” Many of the services the agency is providing it has done for over 10 years.

Transitions Mental Health Association was given a $5.84 million contract to provide mental health services for children and adults, continuing a partnership that’s been going on for over 29 years. This is because there are very limited options for service providers, according to the County.

TMHA runs a number of programs for the County that include family support specialists advocating and supporting families of mental health consumers; a family education program of eight sessions a year reaching some 104 people; a vocational training and supported employment program to “engage, orient, prepare, and support mental health clients to work independently in the community;” the Growing Grounds Retail Vocational Program; and the Hotline-Suicide Prevention and Crisis Intervention Program, among others. 

Transitions also runs the Community Action Team with the San Luis Obispo Police Department to respond directly to individuals experiencing behavioral health crises who are in need of outreach and engagement, according to the County.

The County also awarded a 1-year contract to Seneca Family of Agencies for $2.58 million “to provide mental health services for high-risk children and youth aged 5 to 21 throughout the County.”

Seneca “provides specialty mental health services, medication support, and case management services to eligible children/youth that are living with relatives, adopted, or being considered for adoption, and who need outpatient services,” the County report said. “The focus of the program is to help maintain permanency for children, to address the impacts of adoption on a child and his/her family, and to address the impacts on children being raised by a relative caregiver. These services are intended to reduce the possibility of future residential care, periodic inpatient hospitalization, placement at out-of-state facilities, or placement in a juvenile justice facility.”

And just this past Tuesday, Supervisors were presented with two more contracts for mental health services. Aurora Las Encinas, LLC and San Jose Behavior Health, LLC combined were give a $1.11 million contracts “to provide acute psychiatric hospital services for adult and youth/adolescent Behavioral Health clients,” the County said.

“Apart from State Hospitals, acute care hospitals offer the most intensive level of care in the mental health care continuum. Acute psychiatric hospitals are locked multi-bed, typically short-stay, facilities that are primarily engaged in providing intensive care of persons with severe mental illness.”

All told the County plans on entering into 10 contracts for mental health services with outside agencies. They were still negotiating two more contracts that will go to Supervisors in the coming weeks. The sum of these contracts tops $20.65 million.

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