Behavioral Wellness czar Alice Gleghorn was taken to task by the county’s Mental Health Commission (MHC) at Tuesday’s county supervisors meeting, for failing to consult on a timely basis over a major spending plan — $20 million a year — to address the needs of Santa Barbara’s mentally ill residents. MHC Chair Jan Winter objected that the annual spending plan has yet to be submitted to the commission, even though the new fiscal year is now one-third complete.
Gleghorn — hired two years ago to bring a department in chronic crisis mode under control — said she was not legally required to submit the plan to the commission but that she had reached out to the broader community. She added that the main details of the plan had been effectively hammered out three years ago and had not changed since then. Winter opined that key mental-health performance measurements included in the plan were grossly inaccurate; they needed to be changed, she said, but were not, despite protests from individual commissioners. Likewise, she objected that efforts to put the plan on the commission agenda were twice thwarted by the Gleghorn administration.
[UPDATE: December 7, 2016] Gleghorn stated that she shared the plan with the commission at a July 20 meeting. She added that she had shared the plan at three stakeholder meetings prior to that. Though these were not Mental Health Commission meetings, she stressed, individual commissioners were present.
Gleghorn not only inherited a department in disarray, but critics say she has a brusque personal style. Winter complained that communications between the commission and the Department of Behavioral Wellness have changed “drastically” since Gleghorn took over. Beyond issues of bedside manner, there are substantive differences. The commission strongly backed countywide implementation of Laura’s Law (Assisted Outpatient Treatment/AOT), which gives area judges authority to order service-resistant mentally ill individuals into treatment; the board ultimately backed a small pilot program over Gleghorn’s strenuous objection. She argued the department lacked the resources or personnel to embark on a new program while she was expected to carry out serious reforms.
Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Doreen Farr gently but pointedly urged Gleghorn to work harder to communicate better with her commissioners. Supervisor Janet Wolf made sure Gleghorn could defend herself. And Supervisor Peter Adam, always outspokenly conservative, noted the spending plan in question is funded by a special tax levied on the wealthiest Californians. “We should all pray the top one-tenth of one percent of the taxpayers do very well,” he said.