With Mendocino County first in the state for overdose deaths, local governments, hospitals, and nonprofit organizations are working to ramp up their treatment offerings.
Clover Martin is the treatment services coordinator at the Ford Street Project, which offers a variety of inpatient and outpatient services in Ukiah. She summarized some of the organization’s services, saying, “We provide a social-model detox, which is licensed by the state, a residential treatment and an outpatient treatment program, both also licensed by the state. We also provide sober living, which is not a state-licensed program anywhere.”
Ford Street also runs the community food bank and a project called Unity Village for unhoused families. Near the end of July, Executive Director Jacque Williams spoke during public comment at a Board of Supervisors meeting to ask them to consider her request for $4.1 million from the Measure B tax initiative to fund an expansion in addiction treatment programs. She’s received over $3 million from the state Department of Healthcare Services to build a new treatment pavilion on property that is already owned by the Ford Street Project on the north end of Ukiah. She has also submitted a request for proposals to build a 24-bed sober living dormitory to the Measure B Committee.
Martin says she thinks some services will be doubled or even tripled if the new building can be funded. “The existing sober living building would be repurposed to expand our withdrawal management services (and) our detox services,” she said. “Currently we have six detox beds. With the expansion, it would go up to 18. And currently we have 34 residential beds. With the expansion it would go up to 44. We would also increase our outpatient services. Right now we can have about 15 in outpatient. It would double that also.”
Williams hopes to get an answer by the end of this month about her proposal for the Measure B funds.
The full Measure B committee has eleven members who vote on recommendations to the Board of Supervisors about how to spend the money from the tax initiative. Their recommendations are not binding. Committee member Shannon Riley, who is also the deputy city manager for the City of Ukiah, is one supporter of Williams’ request. “In the original ordinance for Measure B, it specifically states that the funds should be used for addiction support and services,” she noted. “Unfortunately, while Measure B has done a lot of good and important work, no funds to my knowledge have been spent on substance abuse prevention or treatment. And I think that’s a tragedy. We’re spending the bulk of Measure B funds on services for people who are well into mental illness…all of those are really important but it’s also critically important that we try to prevent people from needing those services in the first place. And if we can treat addiction at its earlier stages, using successful programs like New Life (the methadone clinic on Standley Street in Ukiah) and Ford Street, then maybe we wouldn’t need to build so many facilities down the road.”
Williams said the $4.1 million she is requesting would “get us where the construction and site development is complete” for the dorm she is planning. The site is on unimproved land, “so there is a little bit higher cost with that,” she acknowledged.
She doesn’t have much information about how to apply for the opioid settlement funds that have started to come into the county. “When we were trying to put our request together, we asked the county for guidance,” she recalled. “We asked how the determinations on how the opioid settlement money that will come to the county will be utilized, and were told those things had not been determined yet. In one of my requests, we had backed off the $4.1 million, hoping that we would be able to apply for opioid settlement money as well. But we never heard what the plans are for that. So I’m assuming that those things are still in motion.”
A county press release dated August 4 says the Board of Supervisors will be working with Dr. Jenine Miller, director of the Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, “to determine the highest and best use of the Abatement Funds for opioid remediation activities in our County.” The county has currently received $1.4 million, “a small portion of the initial settlement.”
There’s a long list of needs that have been incurred as a result of the opioid epidemic. Williams thinks the settlement provides another kind of opportunity, too. “It’s important that we as a community agree on what our priority will be,” she reflected. “Because this money was going to continue to come in for 18 years. And so this is a chance to really deploy some strategies on how to improve this kind of system of care.”