Thursday, December 7, 2023

Frustrations Mount After Board of Supervisors Funds Mendocino County’s New Jail Instead of Drug Treatment

The Board of Supervisors received the first quarter budget report yesterday, which includes a recommendation to reclaim two million dollars of PG&E settlement money that had been set aside for emergency medical services and to reduce carbon pollution. Last week, CEO Darcie Antle told the Board that she doesn’t expect the county to be able to fund a water agency for another four or five years. “I do not believe your financial situation will improve in two years,” she informed the Supervisors.

Despite this precarious fiscal situation, the Board voted unanimously on Halloween to borrow up to $7 million from Measure B, the voter-approved mental health tax initiative, to fund a behavioral health wing at the new jail. That is all the $6.3 million in Measure B’s unallocated funds, plus some from the $5.8 million prudent reserve. Details about a repayment plan or the interest rate were not included in the decision. There was no recommendation from the Measure B oversight committee to lend the money for this purpose, as committee member Tom Allman made very clear a week before the Board’s decision.

“All I’m asking this committee to do is tell the Board of Supervisors that we support their endeavor to continue their tenacity and their strength, to finalize and construct a behavioral health wing of the correctional facility for the improvement of the quality of life of victims of mental illness,” he declared. “I’m not asking that we go to the Board and ask for money.”

Shannon Riley is the deputy city manager for the City of Ukiah and a Measure B oversight committee member. She was one of two votes against approving Allman’s statement. She doesn’t feel the loan was handled forthrightly. She noted that the original Measure B ordinance included the requirement for an oversight advisory body, specifically for the purpose of overseeing the finances of the tax initiative and making recommendations to the Board of Supervisors about how to spend the funds. “What actually went before the Supervisors not only was not a recommendation but was not even discussed by the Measure B committee,” she said. “So that circumventing of the oversight committee feels really irresponsible to me.”

Measure B specifically includes a provision for drug treatment services. A Grand Jury report last year noted that the oversight committee’s strategic plan, known as the Kemper Report, recommended that about $750,000 a year be devoted to substance use disorder treatment. But in spite of the current crisis in opioid addiction, the investigation found that, “no funds have been dedicated to addiction treatment.” In its findings, “The Grand Jury determined this to be a serious oversight.”

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Jacque Williams is the Executive Director of the Ford Street Project, a nonprofit that specializes in treating substance use disorder and recovery. She submitted a proposal for a sober living facility that the Board turned down, in spite of receiving a recommendation from the oversight committee to fund it. Now, she’s changing her approach. She said the biggest need in the community at this time is withdrawal management, even more than the sober living expansion she was proposing. “The six beds we have currently don’t touch the need,” she reflected. “So we’re going to have to look at repurposing our current sober living environment and use it exclusively for withdrawal management. This was a part of our plan, but we were hoping we’d have another sober living environment so we wouldn’t have to disrupt services. This disrupts services.” She added that she will be negotiating with the Probation Department and the Public Defender to end county contracts for offering sober living accommodations early.

The Board turned down her proposal out of concern that there wouldn’t be enough money to build the long-awaited puff, or psychiatric health facility. The Kemper Report recommended a $5 or $6 million puff, but the Board chose a design that’s closer to $20 million.

The county got a $9.3 million grant from the state Department of Healthcare Services to reimburse the costs of building the puff, which, like the jail, has not yet broken ground. A PowerPoint presentation in the Board’s agenda packet from last week states that this money is not certain, as Supervisor John Haschak noted. “That 9.3 could be seven million if we don’t do all the deliverables,” he warned. “And it’s not guaranteed money.”

Williams is skeptical. She’s using the same kind of grant on a state-funded treatment pavilion, and she says the state is doing everything it can to help recipients build the infrastructure where people can be treated. “There’s a bunch of experts that are available to us, so if and when you run into an issue, they’re pretty dedicated to try and help you keep moving ahead,” she said. “So I’m having a hard time imagining how the county won’t be successful in the completion of their construction project.”

Williams and Riley both believe the current jail is out of compliance with state mandates, and that it needs to be rectified. But Riley is frustrated that the Board bypassed the oversight committee so thoroughly. “If we’re not able to oversee the funds in a transparent way, and if we’re not making recommendations that are even entertained by the Board of Supervisors, I don’t see what our role is,” she said bluntly. And she is “absolutely worried” about the county’s ability to pay the money back. “There was no plan for the repayment of it,” she pointed out. Staff at the county has been tasked with developing that repayment plan. But we have no idea what that will look like. And given the county’s budget situation and their other financial obligations, I do not have a high level of confidence that that money is going to come back to Measure B anytime soon. Which compromises future projects.”

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  1. I think this is great! Ford Street has not made a worthwhile difference in the community in the past 20 years. It has been a place where the addicted can make new connections, and live protected from consequence of their poor choices. I hope that the mental health addition at the jail will stop the abuse of the local Emergency departments which too often are filled by Psych patients on holds, and drug abusers who will state they are suicidal as a means of avoiding jail for better accommodations in the ER while pending psychiatric evaluation/placement, most often to be set free in 72 hours. Having psych expertise at the jail will certainly improve the quality of life for those afflicted with mental illness or having dual diagnoses. Additionally, it will improve the environment in our local emergency departments with regard to the fact that medical patients won’t be traumatized by the behaviors of those conveniently dumped off as an alternative to real psychiatric help.
    For those who think this is callous, you reap what you sow. Perhaps if people were held accountable for transporting, selling, buy or using narcotics, there would be less deaths and wasted lives. As far as I know, the cost to the hard working, law abiding taxpayer is less to put people in jail that to invest in treatment that has such a miniscule success rate. Also, I hear of a lot less overdoses within jail walls that outside……

    • You’re correct there’s no personal accountability anymore. A friend recently had her car stolen. When they caught the guy he got almost nothing except he was on probation or something like that. He went to jail for violating it mostly.
      But she hasn’t had a thing stolen the entire time this guy had been in jail.
      Laws are for victims everybody keeps forgetting that and yelling about saving the guys breaking them. Crazy

  2. All this money should go to schools to teach kids about childhood trauma and symptoms of Complex Ptsd, to avoid substance abuse in the first place. The commentary on this thread leads me to believe even non-drug addicted adults don’t understand the connection. This is the problem.

    • Ukiah, like several other districts in Mendo, passed additional school bonds to improve the facilities and school functions back in 2020. Mendo has a housing, a job market, and a governing problem. A thriving black market and an absence of legal jobs and housing may likely be bigger contributors to despair and other social ills. Lake and Mendo have some of the highest rates of suicide in the whole state. It’s not because kids aren’t taught about childhood trauma or PTSD.

  3. A community that has thrived on the black market is debating whether the jail should receive the funds to bring it up to date with modern CA standards? This is a no brainer; build the jail. The longer the delay the more the jail will cost.

    • Yup, should a community that thrives on a black market expand the jail? Um, if we are all in jail then who will teach the kids? Half the teachers around here grow, grew or use marijuana and many of them and social workers too suffer/suffered mental health breakdowns, especially in 2020. Alcohol is rampant amongst teachers and social workers. Oh, don’t worry the screens the school boards bought with that money you mentioned will teach the kids while their teachers are in rehab. In case any body here is unaware, the kids in public schools stare at tablets all day. How will that not lead to depression and self medication in our future generations?

      • Let’s not misrepresent what is going on….The jail in Mendo was built in the 80s as a temporary holding facility. The County BOS took grant money in 2017 to build a facility to current CA standards. The current jail is in disrepair and was never intended for this longevity. Mendo has lots of lawlessness in the rural areas. The culture here is clearly evident that people earn money here under illicit means with little oversite.

      • “Jumping to conclusions in her situation is not a good idea.” “But to jump right off with accusations, as your first public statement”- It is a fact she was charged with a form of embezzlement. This is not jumping to conclusion. It happened. She is not guilty of anything until her day in court. I am clearly illuminating the amount of distrust in Mendos gov’t body.

        “I suspect she was simply being used and told to make the accusation by her superiors” – This is conjecture. (that’s fancy for ‘your opinion’)

        Pierce (the horses mouth) said these were undisclosed accounts and there was more than one account. It didn’t come from the Ted, it came from her. Supposedly in Dec they will have more details. I am curious about the Special State Audit which is still ongoing.

  4. Everything about this was rushed and clearly discussed behind closed doors in violation of the Brown Act. Shannon Riley is on point with her assessment. The Board made their policy decision long before this item appeared on the agenda or was discussed openly. Even if this was the correct decision, it was executed so poorly that the public opinion of the Board and County government will suffer. Future ballot measures will suffer. I don’t think that’s a win in any way. Its all so rushed that they did not give a single clue as to how the money would be paid back to Measure B. No timeline, no interest cost, amortization table…. nothing. Would you loan money without any due diligence? Would you expect to take out a loan with no agreement attached to it? After 5 years of this being in process, out of nowhere this happens? BTW they have no funding plan for staffing the mental health wing of the jail, which is actually an EXPANSION of services. So guess what’s next? the 1/8 cent tax that was ongoing to provide services will be used at the jail. I don’t know what Allman is thinking, because the Jail will now become the only option for treating mental illness which was what I thought Measure B’s whole purpose was to prevent.

    • Sloppy Board you are 1000% correct!! How do the people who vote for future ballot measures now trust that what they voted for actually comes to fruition?

    • It was rushed. It will reduce the trust of the public in the BOS to handle future endeavors. The BOS is voted in by the public. The financial fiasco the county is enduring is likely an accountability issue and plausibly a corruption issue. Both scenarios lead to less than ideal circumstances; like less transparency in how to repay the funds since the BOS doesn’t even know how deep in the hole they are in. We have an embezzlement charge against the current Auditor and former payroll manager, undisclosed bank accounts going back who knows how long, and an Assessor’s office who is years behind on assessments along with over 50% turnover in her office for nearly 10 years. All these offices are elected by the public. A dog chasing its own tail. The Emperor wears no clothes.

      • Its not an embezzlement charge, and the accounts were legit and disclosed. Don’t fall for Ted’s constant attempt to make things seem sinister. You are probably right about the rest

        • Definition of Embezzlement: theft or misappropriation of funds placed in one’s trust or belonging to one’s employer.

          Sarah Pierce (acting auditor) said they were undisclosed accounts and were not following the R&T codes.

          • Sara Pierce may be a very bright individual. But her experience in County government is not very long. Her experience in being the Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector is about three weeks now? You and she may be well served by reading about the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Ted and many other politicians are the epitome of this phenomena. Jumping to conclusions in her situation is not a good idea. But, I suspect she was simply being used and told to make the accusation by her superiors. As she clarified yesterday, what she “found” was a bank account on the coast used to deposit presumably cash funds, probably so that some staff member wouldn’t have to spend the two hours driving to and from Ukiah to make the deposit. Pierce doesn’t have access to the account, and once she does she’ll have a very simple debit/credit sheet to see the deposits and where they went. Once she has that, she can probably draw some conclusions. But to jump right off with accusations, as your first public statement, is a very dangerous and seemingly political thing to do. Also, its far more likely for fraud to occur with cash before a bank deposit, and that would be at the departmental level.

          • You would have to stretch the general understanding of embezzlement pretty far to have it apply to what happened. She continued an arrangement to pay somebody to do work (work which was actually done) without the proper process. Embezzlement implies some kind of personal gain, of which there was none.

          • Why didn’t DA Dave charge them with embezzlement?

            You want to know why? Misappropriation of Public Funds is a catch all. It’s the weaker charge.

            The key word is intent. DA must prove the person charged knew it was wrong and benefitted. If Kennedy was following Lloyd Weer’s direction during an emergency Covid plan, where’s the intent.

            And why didn’t DA Dave file charges against Weer? Cubbison’s charge is she knew it was going on and did nothing about it. Hard to prove since she put Kennedy on Administrative Leave and then terminated her.

            Let’s talk Fraud, DA Dave had a Christmas dinner/party for his employees/spouses at the Broiler.
            He realized he couldn’t turn that receipt into Cubbison as a staff party so he wrote it off as training. There is your intent and could be charged for Fraud, Embezzlement and Misappropriation of Public Funds. The strongest being Fraud for faking a receipt and calling it training.

              • This doesn’t make it any better. This makes the Auditor’s office look worse from a PR stand point. At lease with intent the problem can be nipped in the butt. The DA is a whole other can of nonsense. It’s seem to be gov’t wide problem no matter how you look it.

          • Pierce initially claimed the accounts were undisclosed. She walked that back significantly in second meeting. She probably should have researched them a little more thoroughly before making a public statement. It really makes it look like a political hit.

  5. This county is a complete joke. I voted for measure B as I truly believed in the stated mission and how funds were to be used. This is a bait and switch. So grateful I’m finally out of this dysfunctional place…nothing is ever going to change.

  6. The jail absolutely needs the physical plant to be improved and modernized, to solely fund the jail fails to address the needs of others in the community who aren’t- or aren’t yet- in the criminal justice system. Too many of our County’s citizens are deeply sunk in the use of deadly drugs, and many want the kind of help that Ford Street provides. It should be a priority for the County to recognize this vital service and provide the necessary funding to ensure its continued operation.

    • Perhaps you should look into the actual statistics for Ford Street before touting it as a decent alternative for drug addiction treatment. Ford Street Project has the one of the lowest success rates in the state for residential treatment facilities, and caters their programs to those that are already criminals….probationers and parolees. If you have a loved one or friend that needs help recovering from addiction and is not in the judicial system, perhaps look into real treatment, with well educated addiction specialists and counselors with actual experience and degrees (as opposed to last years junkie that took a class or two).

  7. Thank God! Please build more jails. Get these people off the street and out of the woods. Lock these people away and throw away the key. The best place to sober up is in jail. That’s the tough love they need. Treatment of drug addicts fails 9 times out of 10.
    These druggie bums that plague California have proven they don’t want to be productive members of society. Since that’s the case, either put them all on an island somewhere where they can all do drugs together, steal from each other, break into each others houses and cars or put them in jail. Not enough room in jail you say? Well cram em in like sardines and that will be the incentive not to break the law. Good riddance all you druggie bums!!!!

    • Jails are not the answer to drug addiction! Treatment works for the addicts that decide to do the work and continue past the initial treatment program and get into Narcotic’s Anonymous ! Mendocino county just needs to invest into an inpatient treatment program that gets the addict off the streets for say 60 to 90 days then into a subsidized living facility that they can find jobs and continue with outside recovery. The model I just described has worked well for many thousands of addicts . “Thank you for more Jails” I didn’t make those numbers up like you made up yours! Treatment doesn’t fail the addict that wants to recover from addiction! Lock’em up and throw away the key??? You’re talking about human beings with the disease of addiction . Maybe spend a little time reading about addiction so you can get some fact’s instead of myths.

      • Treatment does not work. Just like “needle exchanges” with no needles exchanged. I know folks who work at the needle exchange. They all say no needles are actually “exchanged”. They are just given needles. The only drug treatment that works is jail. Dry out, tough love is what drug addicts really need. What they don’t need is to be coddled by a society that enables their addiction. Lock all the drug addicts in jail. Thanks!

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Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith is a radio and print reporter working in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, focusing on local politics and environmental news.

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