Santa Clara County Supervisors Identify Mental Health Crisis, Decide to Study It for 3 Months

Santa Clara County is officially in a mental health and substance abuse crisis, according to the county Board of Supervisors, who this week called for a better coordinated effort to respond to the crisis.

The supervisors’ unanimous action asked county staff to begin “systemwide planning” to address mental health issues and shortages in the mental health care workforce.

The supervisor action did not include any new money or specific legislation at this time.

Instead, the board seeks to outline a process for establishing a comprehensive treatment plan to be presented in April.

The action was proposed by Supervisors Otto Lee and Susan Ellenberg. In a statement outlining the reasons for declaring a public health emergency, Ellenberg said, “The current crisis of people with untreated severe mental illness, and its intersections with the housing crisis, substance use and the criminalization of mental health, has left jails as the provider of last resort.”

“This trend has been decades in the making and will require large-scale, innovative and coordinated responses across levels of government, the private sector, community organizations and residents to resolve.”

The San Jose Downtown Association, which has been confronting issues of mental health among San Jose’s unsheltered residents, sent a letter to supervisors this week, strongly endorsing renewed action to address public mental health issues.

“There is a mental health and substance abuse crisis in Santa Clara County,” wrote Scott Knies, executive director of the downtown association, on behalf of his business members. “We see it everyday in downtown San Jose with individuals suffering from psychosis and addiction in our doorways, sidewalks, parks, creeks and trails. And their numbers continue to grow.”

“Decades ago, the state abdicated its responsibility for its most vulnerable citizens by turning over mental health services to counties without the dedicated funds for implementation, he wrote. “Our cities have suffered ever since.”

“Declaring a public health crisis is a bold step forward only if it leads to the massive changes hinted at in the proposal,” Knies wrote. “Nibbling at incremental improvements to the status quo efforts will not cut it.”

Lack of adequate mental health resources and increasing burdens on county  jail staff to deal with mental health issues were cited last August by Sheriff Laurie Smith in her response to the supervisors’ no-confidence vote. Smith in December was accused of willful misconduct over jail conditions and faces possible removal in court proceedings that begin Friday.

“It is unacceptable to wait for the state to take the long-overdue action to remedy the impacts of shifting people with serious mental illness out of state hospitals as they began to close in the late 1960s and 1970s,” Ellenberg said in her statement.

“While the intent of community-based care was laudable, the implementation has been inhumane for residents too unwell to care for themselves, and untenable for cities and counties not provided with – or lacking the necessary resources to meet the needs of their residents at scale.”

She said that while the county “continues to increase general fund investment in behavioral health and has added many new program components just within the last three years including a mobile crisis response team, a crisis stabilization unit, additional contracted treatment beds, embedded providers with law enforcement agencies, youth wellness centers, expanded school-based behavioral health services, and intensive outpatient treatment programs… too many of our residents are disconnected from care, our systems are too difficult to navigate5, and the need for services outstrips our available capacity.”

“We recognize that a resolution is largely symbolic – but our aim is to move away from piecemeal discussions of the needs in our behavioral health system, or adding ‘one more tool to the toolbox’ as has been the narrative with other individual program expansions, and instead to charge the board and administration to take the same kind of proactive, urgent and collaborative leadership to solve this pressing need as we have done with COVID-19 and other emergencies in the past,” the supervisor said.

5 Comments

  1. Remember these Supervisors have continually advocated against Law & Order and the Safety of Taxpaying Peaceful Residents of the city and county.

    Vote for Law & Order ♥️🇺🇸 and not these Pro-Crime Activists when Voting Time comes Around.

    Over the Past Year local news sources reported on
    Supervisors, Council Members, and Political Groups that
    have Advocated in one way or another
    to Weaken,
    Dismantle,
    Limit and
    Undermine proven Law & Order initiatives
    and programs in San Jose and the Bay area –
    Essentially neutering Short-term and Long-term actions
    of Police to Provide a Safe City for Taxpaying Residents.

    Particularly Sup. Susan Ellenberg and Cindy CHAVEZ who continually are shown supporting Pro-Crime/ Anti-Jail initiatives.

    Just a small sample from the SJSpotlight pages:

    Nov16: “Santa Clara County supervisors delay jail decision”
    ….Supervisor Susan Ellenberg requested the deferral on the new jail ….
    Santa Clara County lawmakers have deferred a decision on management of the jail system following calls to delay from one supervisor.
    Supervisor Susan Ellenberg requested the deferral Monday afternoon.

    Nov01: “Focusing on equity is essential…”
    “….priority is to invest in Community-Based Alternatives to the Criminal-Legal System and to continue to Reduce the Population of People who are (In Jail) Incarcerated Pre-Trial (ie $0 No Bail reqts) – which is about 80% of the total population in custody.”

    Sep22:
    “Ellenberg & Supervisor Cindy CHAVEZ recently asked the county attorney to explore ways to Reduce the Jail Population.
    “Ellenberg, along with Supervisor Cindy Chavez, brought forth a proposal to explore ways to explore the criminal legal system, …. in an effort to reduce jail populations …”

  2. What heroic rhetoric! So, after decades of Progressive policies that dismantled the in-patient mental health care system and blocked police, other first responders and medical professionals from the ability to commit people for needed treatment, now you want to ride in and “fix it?” How noble and what a great resume builder for higher office. Ms Ellenberg alludes to a decade’s long crisis; a crisis does not last for decades. This is not a crisis, it is a chronic condition; and, it has been created by “progressive” policies.

    At least Ms. Ellenberg seems to be making some progress in understanding the fundamentals of homelessness by acknowledging that homelessness is NOT primarily a “lack of affordable housing” issue. Glad to hear you are on board with this.

    The combination of mental illness, drug/alcohol abuse and criminality may be responsible for as much as 60 to 70% of the chronically homeless numbers.

    It does not have to be complex. It will be expensive, but so is turning our communities into third-world cesspools and flooding our courts and jails with the mentally ill.

    We should also recognize that the Sheriff has had to deal with all the problems that Ms. Ellenberg and previous progressives have dumped into the criminal justice system (jail and courts) by their failure to acknowledge and adequately address the root causes. Instead of fixing the problem, Ellenberg has viciously attacked the Sheriff for not fixing the problems that the progressive politicians have dump into law enforcement’s lap.

    Pay no attention to the cost of Ellenberg’s grandiose plans and “studies” because by the time the taxpayers figure out that her phrase “innovative responses across levels of the government, the private sector, community organizations” actually means huge amounts of money for not-for-profit grifters and thousands more government employees (read SEIU) who do nothing but build revolving doors for the mentally ill, Ms Ellenberg, g-d help us, will be on to wreaking havoc in a higher office. She will be long gone by the time we read in some future civil grand jury report about how overly complex, bloated and FUBAR her plan became.

    If people are properly treated for mental illness, they can, by and large, take care of themselves. If they cannot take care of themselves and keep cycling back to in-patient care, they probably should stay there. And, we probably have somewhere between 500 and 1,000 homeless right now on the streets that need lifetime in-patient care. Build those beds first and get these severely ill people into them. Just taking the most severely ill from the streets will improve things substantially. Prosecute the drug dealers and criminals and put them in prison (particularly those with, I don’t know, 20 or 30 or more arrests!) — that will remove another 500 to 1,000 from the streets and a lot more will move out of the county sua sponte. Who wants to go to jail or a mental institution where you must remain sober? After we accomplish these goals, we can talk about more complex issues. The County probably needs a thousand beds right now. But what they really need is the will to fix the problem and the support (legislatively and financially) of the State to keep the chronically ill in hospital and the chronic criminal offenders in prison for longer sentences.

    And, please, do not even go to “Ronald Reagan did it.” Here is an article from 1984 from the NYT that describes the de-institutionalization of the entire nation’s mental hospitals, which had been occurring in EVERY state for years before Reagan was even elected governor of the once great state of California.

    https://www.nytimes.com/1984/10/30/science/how-release-of-mental-patients-began.html

    It is a cruel society that allows its mentally ill and substance addicted homeless to die in the streets from overdoses, violence, and exposure. It is a suicidal society that allows its addicts, miscreants, anti-socials, and criminals to run amok in its cities. Progressives continue to choose both options – they continue to choose to be both cruel and suicidal simultaneously.

    It is diabolical to use the homeless as a political cudgel to gain power and influence and to line the pockets of your political supports with cash.

  3. How come there is never a mention of the company’s name that is being paid to do these studies. Mention homelessness or mental issues of homeless and the city or county’s first response is we are going to do a study on that. The homeless have to be the most studied group in the history of the world. Here’s something they should study- Less Money for studies More money for actually helping people.

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