A Possible Fix for the Mental Health Deficit

Contingent upon a four-fifths vote by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, a plan that would help the county’s Alcohol, Drug & Mental Health Services Department (ADMHS) eliminate its $3.4 million deficit has been reached. The department, along with a group of roughly 12 community-based organizations (CBOs), will be asking the board in January to withdraw $1.7 million from its strategic reserves to provide a one-time infusion of cash, while the remainder would come from a $1.31 million cut to the county’s mental health services as well as cuts by private providers. Directors of various CBOs-which will cut about $390,000-met with County Executive Mike Brown last week, stressing that the cuts depend upon strategic reserve money coming in. They expect three votes in their favor, and will use the next month to court supervisors Joni Gray and Brooks Firestone.

Even with this potential solution to the budget woes of this fiscal year, further cuts await. Brown is tasking all departments to look at potential cuts for the next fiscal year to compensate for anticipated revenue shortfalls. In addition, a task force is being formed by ADMHS and Brown’s office, CBO representatives, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to look at revamping the structure of ADMHS. With a privatization clause eliminated from a recent SEIU contract with the county, more services currently provided by the county are expected to be contracted out to private providers.

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