Resource Development Associates

MHSOAC Unanimously Approves Yolo County’s Innovation Projects

By Roberta Chambers

Recently, the California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) approved two project plans that will greatly improve services and support for people with serious mental health problems in Yolo County. The two plans, developed by Yolo County’s Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) with support from RDA, had their funding approved as part of the Innovation (INN) component of the Mental Health Services Act to develop a First Responders Initiative and conduct a Board and Care Study in the county.

These plans were identified, developed, and endorsed as part of the county’s comprehensive and inclusive MHSA Three-Year Plan Community Planning Process. Over 200 stakeholders rolled up their sleeves and worked together to develop strategies to best serve those with serious mental health needs in the county. The two INN plans that resulted from this collaborative process received unanimous approval from MHSOAC.

As part of the MHSA community planning process, stakeholders identified gaps in the crisis continuum of care as a critical need. When first responders encounter someone experiencing a mental health crisis, the options for intervention are limited to supporting the person as they remain where they are or transporting them to the emergency department. If the person has a co-occurring disorder, possesses substances, or is suspected of committing a crime, they may also get arrested and go to jail. The emergency department has limited options for discharge after business hours, and consumers may either get discharged back to the community, hospitalized, or referred to crisis residential services.

In response, the First Responders Initiative (FRI) developed by HHSA and stakeholders will improve collaboration and information sharing between all first responders, mental health providers, and consumers to avoid the unnecessary hospitalization and incarceration of people experiencing mental health crisis. To accomplish this goal, the FRI will:

  • Develop recovery-oriented and coordinated approaches for individuals who experience crises and are likely to come into contact with first responders;
  • Develop an alternative drop-off location for people who require additional crisis intervention but do not meet 5150 criteria; and
  • Enable real-time, mobile access to relevant mental health information to support decision-making.

During the MHSA community planning process, HHSA leadership and community stakeholders also found three interlaced factors that present challenges to providing an appropriate level of housing assistance and supports to adult consumers with the most severe needs.

  1. There are not enough Board and Care Facilities in Yolo County.
  2. Board and Care Facilities are less likely to accept clients with the highest needs.
  3. Clients with the highest needs are placed out of county and away from their homes, families, and/or support system.

Due to the detrimental effects of Board and Care bed shortages for their mental health consumers, HHSA, in partnership with stakeholders, developed this INN project as a participatory study to better understand the problem and create solutions. The Board and Care Study will:

  • Increase understanding of the dynamics underlying the Board and Care bed shortage;
  • Identify strategies and incentives to increase the Board and Care capacity;
  • Identify capacity building approaches to incentivize the placement of consumers with the most intense service needs in available Board and Care beds; and
  • Develop an implementation plan to increase access to Board and Care placement for those with the most intense service needs.

The approval of these plans represents a significant success for HHSA and the people of Yolo County. Built on feedback from stakeholders at multiple levels, the final plans represented a truly collaborative process. Their collective efforts were recognized by MHSOAC, and the implementation of the plans should shape mental health services for years to come, which should help to make people’s lives better in the county.

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