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Supervisors Re-think Program Participation

By Staff | May 1, 2008

With a self-imposed deadline approaching, Palo Alto County Supervisors once again discussed the future of participation in the Integrated Services Pathway program during their April 22 meeting.

County Mental Health Director Maureen Sandberg and County Sheriff Denny Goeders reviewed what the program was and did for the county.

“We’ve had the ISP since 2001,” Sandberg noted, “and I got a message from Koree Muilenberg, the case worker, asking what the county was going to do, funding-wise. She needs to know by May 1 if we’re going to change our level of funding.”

The Supervisors had previously approved a one-time, $2,500 expenditure for the service, which would take the county through June. Under the ISP program, prisoners who ask for mental health services have those costs covered by the program.

“Things are much different now than they were in 2001,” Goeders told the supervisors. “Now we have more people in jail due to methamphetamine and other drugs, and if the jail budget had to pay for these mental health services instead of the ISP, we’d be sunk.”

Sandberg informed the board that seven mental health evaluations had been performed through the ISP, costing $221 per evaluation, for a total cost of $1,551.83. There had been six prisoners who received therapy through the program, with those sessions costing $114 per session, with an average of two sessions a month, for a cost of $5,472 for a three-month period.

“I don’t think prisoners should have those rights, they’re in jail for a reason,” observed Supervisor Jerry Hofstad.

“Do we have to give them these mental health services?” asked Supervisor Ed Noonan.

“If there is a request for a service and I refuse it, and there is a problem, then we are liable,” the sheriff replied.

“As I see it, if we cut the ISP all together, we are going to have to put more into it and onto Denny’s shoulders at the jail,” said Supervisor Keith Wirtz. “I agree with you Jerry, but we have no choice.”

After a couple moments of silence, Wirtz spoke up. “I just think if we don’t support the program, we’ll put more of a load on Denny and we’ll have to pay in the end.”

“I just don’t think we have any choice,” observed Board Chair Leo Goeders.

“I can’t see by dropping the ISP that we’ll save anything,” Wirtz said. “I think we should go ahead and support them fully.”

The board came to a general consensus to continue funding, and put the item on the agenda of the April 29 meeting for official action.