Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Feb 06th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

A Safe Spot

news2New start offers immediate and interim psychiatric care

For the past 27 years Dominican Hospital has been the go-to place in Santa Cruz for acute psychiatric services, or immediate, short-term care. However, when the county’s contract with Dominican’s Behavioral Health Unit is up in 2013, it will seek a new place to house many of those in need of psychiatric care. In the coming years the county plans to build a separate Psychiatric Health Facility [PHF] that will include 16 more beds than are currently available.

“It became clearer and clearer to Dominican and to their parent corporation, Catholic Healthcare West, that operating the psychiatric unit really didn't work for them financially and in business terms,” says Leslie Tremaine, director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “And that is not unique to Catholic Healthcare West. That's happening all over the country to general hospitals that have had psych units.”

California governments from Humboldt County to Orange County have transitioned from health units that operate in hospitals to ones that function independently but nearby.

In light of severe budget concerns, Santa Cruz County is putting extra thought into the decision. “We need to make sure that this is a fiscally sound process for the county,” says Tremaine. “We’re in such a budget mess right now. The last thing we need to do is make it any worse.” However, proponents of the project say the new facility would be cost effective and should have a lower operating cost.

Rama Khalsa, Santa Cruz's Health Services Agency administrator, says the county can save money in the switch because there will be fewer restrictions and rules that, for example, dictate the ratio of nurses to patients. She estimates the increased efficiency will allow them to tailor their institution to fit the needs of recipients, and adds that counties can typically save $200 to $600 in operating costs per day after making the transition.

The new start also gives the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (HSA) the opportunity to start from scratch. They hope that this experience will help them learn what could make for a better facility.

At a town hall meeting in Watsonville on Feb. 16, Khalsa, Tremaine and 3rd District County Supervisor Neal Coonerty listened to the concerns of community members and looked for input on what an ideal facility would look like for Santa Cruz. Kathleen Kilpatrick, a nurse from Watsonville High School, expressed frustration that the unit will not accommodate children.

Len Lofano, chief deputy for the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Department, said that he would like to see law enforcement carry less of the burden of handling psychiatric patients. He called the county jail system the “the de facto bed source” for psychiatric patients in the county, a position he says the Sheriff’s Department would not like to be in.

Other suggestions ranged from that the facility should not have any beds, which can be “coercive” in nature, to it should have more beds to accommodate more people. Tremaine, who is focusing on the programming for the new facility, says she is listening closely to concerns. “We’re trying to use the time to really ask people, 'what is it that you think could be a good service for this county?'” she says.

Coonerty believes that planners of the proposed facility will be better off with the input they received from town hall attendees, many of whom were family members of patients. “I think this is part of a long process, and we need to get input and real life stories and what works and doesn't work, and I think that's what we're getting,” Coonerty says. “We're really gathering information. It's nice we have this long process in order to do this.”

As the plan moves forward, officials hope to find a site in the mid-county region for the new facility to be built so that it will be near Dominican Hospital and other medical resources in case a patient's health problems grow larger than their psychiatric concerns. Both Dominican Hospital and county officials would like the transition to be as smooth as possible.

“I'm really heartened and happy that all of that will continue, because people need so many different approaches to healing,” says Martina O'Sullivan, director for community engagement at Dominican. “I think that's what we're really about here—to make sure that whatever comes next will be all that people need as they are on this journey.”


If you would like to offer comments, please visit santacruzhealth.org.

 

Comments (2)Add Comment
staff ratios
written by unionmaid, March 08, 2010
In the fourth paragraph or so, cost savings are anticipated by the eventual release from patient / staff ratios, which apparently are costly. The lack of these ratios are costly too, primarily for patients, but caregivers, whether RN's, CNA's, LVN's benefit from a small ratio.

Nurses and other healthcare unions have fought long and hard for these patient/staff ratios and all of us, whether current patients or future, benefit. To now state that this transition away from these ratios will save money is shortsighted.

My mother is in a unionized medical rehab unit and clearly benefits from the same ratio arrangement, as do I as her care manager. She is well cared for, closely attended and the providers are rested and show no evidence of overwork.

To move away from ratios is to invite some image of patients lying around for longer times and families having a harder time accessing helpers for information.

This is a big move back to the bad old days of warehousing.
People with lived experience?
written by Sylvia Caras, March 02, 2010
I'm glad to see this coverage of the $8 million proposal to build a Psychiatric Illness Facility. But where are the voices of people with lived experience in locked psychiatric units? Where is the discussion of peer-run crisis respite? I think we are missing the opportunity this economic crisis provides to rethink from scratch what psychiatric disability is and how we can best support people who experience mood swings, fear, voices and visions to manage themselves in this complex world.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

On the Run

Is there hope for California’s salmon?

 

Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey

Monday, Feb. 8, is Aquarius new moon (19 degrees) and Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey (an imaginative, intelligent and vigilant creature). Monkey is bright, quick, lively, quite naughty, clever, inquiring, sensible, and reliable. Monkey loves to help others. Often they are teachers, writers and linguists. They are very talented, like renaissance people. Leonardo Da Vinci was born in the year of Monkey. Monkey contains metal (relation to gold) and water (wisdom, danger). 2016 will be a year of finances. For a return on one’s money, invest in monkey’s ideas. Metal is related to wind (change). Therefore events in 2016 will change very quickly. We must ponder with care before making financial, business and relationship changes. Fortune’s path may not be smooth in 2016. Finances and business as usual will be challenged. Although we develop practical goals, the outcomes are different than hoped for. We must be cautious with investments and business partnership. It is most important to cultivate a balanced and harmonious daily life, seeking ways to release tension, pressure and stress to improve health and calmness. Monkey is lively, flexible, quick-witted, and versatile. Their gentle, honest, enchanting yet resourceful nature results often in everlasting love. Monkeys are freedom loving. Without freedom, Monkey becomes dull, sad and very unhappy. During the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), the Chinese official title of Marquis (noble person) was pronounced ‘Hou,’ the same as the pronunciation of ‘monkey’ in Chinese. Monkey was thereby bestowed with auspicious (favorable, fortunate) meaning. Monkey years are: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016.  

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of February 5

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wine and Chocolate

West Cliff Wines gets its game on, plus a brand new chocolate cafe on Center Street

 

How would you stop people from littering?

Teach them from the time that they’re small that it’s not an appropriate behavior. Juliet Jones, Santa Cruz, Claims Adjuster

 

Dancing Creek Winery

New Zinfandel Port is a ruby beauty

 

Venus Spirits

Changing law could mean new opportunity for local spirits