I am a consumer of this county’s mental health system. I listened in May to the county supervisors hearing in which they decided to cut $3.7 million from Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Services (ADMHS). I was astounded by this, especially after the millions cut just three years ago. On the surface it seems so blatantly irresponsible and uncaring. To be blunt, it treats the mentally ill as trash and serves to make the homeless situation worse, and puts those close to the edge over the edge. The other aspect of this is that it puts people who are doing well with services on a crash course downhill, because the reason they are doing well is because of the services. The services are their lifeline. Without this lifeline many will suffer and may well even die. And their blood will be on the supervisors’ hands.
I again listened to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting on June 13, 2012, which again put ADMHS head Dr. Ann Detrick on the hot seat and I think she did very well. She was well prepared with her numbers, and, as well, she presented alternative scenarios. Myself? I cannot see why the budget shortfalls have to fall on the backs of the mentally ill. The mentally ill did not choose that.
In watching the video, I heard two comments from two of the Board of Supervisors. One was Supervisor Wolfe, what she said was antagonistic; and the comment from Supervisor Grey was confused and somewhat accusatory. They were told they could save their comments for later, but I never got to hear them. I see Supervisor Carbajal as very supportive of Dr. Detrick, this coming from a conversation I had with him.
The mental health community does not ask for much. Though I do admit there are some who misuse the system, which is not the norm. We want services to keep us healthy and able to function. Yes, we need SSI and SSDI, but we also want to be able to work part-time, or volunteer part-time. To give back to the community that helps us out. We need doctors who care. Doctors who will listen to us and give us the proper medications and follow-up. We need the types of services that agencies like Path Point and ACT provide. Just the basics. That’s not a lot to ask.
Dr. Ann Detrick does her level best to help the consumers, she did come back with possibilities, and this continues to fall on her back?
Why can’t the county, not South County, not North County, but the whole county, work together to serve the best interests of the whole county? While watching the video of the Board of Supervisors meeting from March 20, 2012 I heard and saw concern for our population. I was moved by this concern, and encouraged by hearing the Board asking the hard questions and wanting solid answers. I only hope that this is true concern about a group of people so maligned in our community, yet with so much that they could offer to our community at large.
I don’t know the answer, but there must be one, somewhere. And money should not mean lives. Money should mean helping the consumer have the best life possible for each individual, whether independent, or living in a program, or finding a way off the streets.