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The coast’s Cypress Crisis Respite will open on May 8, 2023.
A little more than three years ago, on February 3, 2020, Malcolm Macdonald arranged a meeting with respite expert Steve Fields of the Progress Foundation to discuss and assess the needs of the Fort Bragg community. The stakeholder group in attendance included me, Councilmember Morsell-Haye, Supervisor Williams, a Mendocino Coast Health Care District board member, a Measure B board member, and Adventist Health executives. This proved the right combination for the discussion.
After several follow-up conversations we concluded that a four-bed respite would best suit our needs. Then the work began on the fundamental questions of location, cost, funding source, and management. Having spent most of my time on council dealing with the issues that come with homelessness and mental health and having a clear understanding of that
we were already dealing with this demographic unsuccessfully state and countywide by throwing more and more money at the issue while watching the problem grow every year, the most important question to me was when.
The first step was to find a suitable location that would fit best into our community. It had to have the most significant positive impact with the least amount of conflict within its neighborhood. Ultimately, we decided the best spot would be where we started the discussion: the Cypress Street building, which was part of AHʼs lease from the healthcare district. From there, it was a matter of who would run it. It could not be the City as we do not have a health and human service department. Dr. Jenine Miller proved a great asset during the process and agreed that the County should be in charge as this falls into their scope. That concept also allowed for a growing relationship between the City and County. The County folded this facility into its already established contract with RCS (Redwood Community Services). I found the arrangement acceptable as the city was developing a productive relationship with RCS. I then went to work with Adventist Health and RCS to figure out logistics.
Knowing the County had already funded a respite inland for a whopping $4 million in facilities and services, I need to do better for the taxpayers. With Adventist Health already being a key player in the service provider field and, by default, the landing spot for all potential mental health crises, they immediately saw the value in the project. Adventist Health agreed to lease the facility to RCS, thus allowing them to relocate all their adult mental health services into the front of the building and leaving the back end for the four-bed respite.
The next step would be the cost. With RCS able to consolidate its offices and willing to pay for the remodel, Adventist Health offering a more than fair lease arrangement, half the battle was already fought and won. An essential aspect of the services was ensuring that nobody was turned away based on insurance or financial means. With written support from the community, Senator McGuire, and Assembly Member Wood, I successfully lobbied Measure B and the County Board of Supervisors to subsidize the facility and ensure services for the first four years. We eventually returned with $960,000 of Measure B funds for four years to ensure no one will be left behind.
Fast forward to May 8, 2023, with both excitement and a feeling of accomplishment, I am left to ponder the process. We all know that the wheels of government too often turn slowly. However, it was not just government red tape that got in the way. We got some pushback and quite a bit of criticism from some unlikely players. Players who should have seen the potential benefit to the community but instead seemed to resent others fighting successfully for their community and winning.
My point is that everything in government does not have to be gold-plated and new. Ukiah Valley has a very successful 8-10 bed respite, and the City of Fort Bragg and the coast now will have their own four-bed soon-to-be successful respite. One came with a price tag of roughly $4 million to the taxpayer, the other $960,000. The significant difference in cost came from the hard work and dedication put into this project, utilizing my networking, collaborative and solution-based approach, and, of course, while keeping government bureaucracy and red tape to a minimum. Funding always takes a majority vote for approval, so showing up prepared and with a solid plan can make all the difference in success. Get on the bus or get out of the way.
-Fort Bragg Mayor and 4th District Supervisors Candidate Bernie Norvell