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County Keeps Mental-Health Facilities from Going Dark

Two Residential Treatment Centers Provide Care to 352 Patients with Serious Mental Illnesses

Suzanne Grimmesey with county Behavioral Wellness

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors convened a special emergency meeting on Tuesday to prevent two residential mental-health treatment facilities from shutting down and going dark as a result of the bankruptcy filing announced by the operator, Anka Behavioral Health, on May 1. In the past year, Anka’s two facilities ​— ​one in the north and one in the south ​— ​provided residential treatment to 352 patients with serious mental illnesses, most of whom had previously been held on involuntary holds in the county’s Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF, or “Puff”).

Citing the emergency circumstances posed by Anka’s sudden bankruptcy announcement, the supervisors suspended the usual competitive bidding requirements and awarded the treatment contracts to two private, out-of-county mental-health providers. To maintain uninterrupted mental-health services, the supervisors authorized the expenditure of $400,000 to cover costs for the remainder of the fiscal year ​— ​which expires June 30 ​— ​and $4.3 million to cover costs for the next year.

Anka provides mental-health services in 11 counties throughout California. The company pulled the plug last month, claiming its liabilities exceeded assets by a factor of 10. Anka first signed a contract with the County of Santa Barbara in 2015, providing a 10-bed facility in Santa Barbara and a 12-bed facility in North County. Initially, Anka estimated it would suspend services at the end of June, but by May 8, the company alerted county mental-health administrators they’d have to shut down a month sooner than that.

Behavioral Wellness spokesperson Suzanne Grimmesey said the company worked closely with county and state mental-health agencies to ensure there was no interruption in the provision of services. Some Anka employees will continue to work with successor providers, Telecare in the north and Crestwood in the south. The supervisors were not scheduled to meet this week. Had they not called the emergency meeting, however, services would have temporarily halted. These are the only residential treatment beds offered by the County’s Department of Behavioral Wellness ​— ​MediCal payments are accepted ​— ​and their loss, however temporary, would have been cause for significant concern.

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