Editorial: Enhancing mental health care at reduced cost

October 7, 2013 

In the last five years, Stanislaus County leaders have managed to rein in their budget in multiple ways. One area that has proved persistently difficult is the rising cost of inpatient care for seriously mentally ill residents.

After a couple of years of discussion, the county has decided to open a subacute psychiatric health facility in vacant space at the Stanislaus Recovery Center in Ceres. This site, on Richland Avenue, was originally Memorial Hospital Ceres.

The 16 beds will provide inpatient care for people with serious mental illness, but not at the same level – or expense – as the hospitalizations at the Doctors Behavioral Health Center at Claus Road and Briggsmore Avenue.

Historically, according to county staff, the county has used 19 beds at any given time at the Doctors’ psychiatric hospital and in out-of-county hospitals for patients for which the county is responsible. During the last year, the patient count has been as high as 40 and the cost is high – running about $900 per day. The county has negotiated a contract with Telecare Corp. to operate the Ceres facility at a rate of $742 per day per patient.

While the lower cost is a plus, there are other benefits, providing more capacity total within our community for people with serious mental illness and reducing the number of patients who have to be sent out of county, where it is difficult for them to have visits from family and friends.

Last week the Board of Supervisors approved a $1.6 million contract with Simile Construction Service – a local firm, we’re pleased to note – to remodel the wing at the Ceres facility. The goal is to have it open by March. We think it’s the right move to enhance mental health treatment options in Stanislaus County and reduce county costs.

Improving education, one step at a time

In late September, we featured a look at the new Boys & Girls Clubs of Stanislaus County and their after-school programs at two campuses in the Sylvan elementary district. Another effort with the same theme – improving the high school graduation rate – is the Come Back Kids, a charter school operated by the Stanislaus County Office of Education at Mildred Perkins School and aimed at young adults who dropped out. The charter school hoped for 25 students its first year and already has 90 enrolled.

Meanwhile, we’re pleased to see the county Office of Education making good use of Mildred Perkins, an elementary school that was closed by the Salida district in 2010. The county office has a five-year lease on the campus and also is using it to house its Youth Entertainment Stage Co., better known as YES Co.

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