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With typical understatement, county mental health czar Alice Gleghorn acknowledged, “It’s a very big deal.” Her tone, however, was more weary — deadpan, perhaps — than elated. Gleghorn and crew helped broker a deal that will lead to 80 new beds sprouting up for a new acute-care mental-health facility in Lompoc at the site of the state-of-the-art substance abuse center that went out of business nearly two years ago.
In its place, Crestwood Behavioral Health — the largest private mental-health provider in the state — will operate a locked facility with three separate units, each one calibrated to address mental-health challenges of different levels of severity. Some patients will be there for years, others a relatively short period, and others for five to six months.
Last month, Crestwood signed a letter of intent with the property owner, Lompoc Medical Center. The lease is expected to be signed in February. If all goes according to plan, Crestwood will be ready for customers sometime in October.
“We’re very happy to be here,” stated Crestwood’s Executive Vice President Dr. Patricia Blum.
Making the deal financially viable is the stream of patients — 32 — that Gleghorn and the Department of Behavioral Wellness will send and pay for. Currently the department sends 125 patients in need of serious long-term care to out-of-county facilities in faraway places like Sacramento and Sylmar.
“For the past three years, this has been our number-one priority,” Gleghorn declared.
Care for patients sent to Crestwood by the county will be covered by Medi-Cal under the auspices of the county’s conservatorship program. The cost of such treatment, Blum stated, will hover about $425 a night. Having an in-county facility offers a range of much-needed acute-care options with much closer supervision and coordination than is possible in out-of-county facilities. For family members inclined to participate, it offers a clear advantage.
Blum said Crestwood offers an employment training program in which patients are paid competitive wages for a range of jobs, from receptionist to gardener to peer support specialist, if only for an hour and a half a week. “Other than the paycheck, it gives people a sense of purpose,” Blum said.