How About a Half-Cent for Psychiatric Beds Instead?
I was disappointed to see The Independent‘s endorsement of Measure S, the Sheriff’s proposal for a 1/2 cent sales tax to build a new jail. Over thirty percent of those in our jail system are dually diagnosed and many of those who have mental illness and end up in jail do not have insurance or medical coverage to treat their mental illness. The County of Santa Barbara jail is not adequately staffed or trained to treat the mentally ill. Our county has a shameful lack of beds for those with mental illness. In fact, the County of Santa Barbara has contracted with Ventura’s Aurora Vista Del Mar and we outsource our residents with mental illness to Ventura for treatment. That facility is often full as well. Recently my 15-year-old son, who has a diagnosis of autism, had a psychotic break. The juvenile probation department spent many hours to find a psychiatric bed for him. After spending two nights in Juvenile Hall, he ended up in a bed in a psychiatric hospital in Cerritos, two counties away. The UCLA psychiatric hospital was full, Vista Del Mar in Ventura was full, and there was a lack of beds in Santa Barbara County. Rather than a half cent going to a new jail, how about a half cent going to a psychiatric facility in Santa Barbara County? This would lessen the burden on the justice system and families in crises in this County and allow those with mental illness to get the treatment they need.