May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we have a crisis in Orange County.
We have lost 65 percent of the psychiatric beds in our hospitals since 1995 while the population has grown by 35 percent.
The Orange County Grand Jury has issued three reports regarding the impact of mental illness on homelessness and incarceration in the past two years that illustrate the toll and costs of using our jails and emergency rooms as mental health warehouses.
Mental illness also impacts our opioid crisis. Many of those using are self medicating. There are over 14,000 homeless persons living on our streets, many of them with severe mental illness.
We must do better and we have that opportunity now.
In the 1960s a promise was made to implement community based mental health care. That promise has not yet been fulfilled. We have the opportunity to do so now.
The state government has announced its intention to close the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa. We would like to propose that a portion of the 114 acre site be retained and operated as a public/private partnership for wrap-around mental health care.
Orange County ranks last of California’s urban counties in mental health spaces for individuals. We must address this issue. We have the data that shows that wrap-around care and family psychoeducation work in reducing readmissions.
We also know that supportive housing works. We can slow the revolving door between our streets and our emergency rooms and our jails by orders of magnitude.
We can also offer greatly improved and more compassionate care at significantly reduced cost.
We are at a unique point in history where the community, our first responders and emergency room personnel, our faith-based organizations and other stakeholders agree that we can take on some of the most difficult issues facing our society and together help the most helpless of our brothers and sisters.
Using a part of the Fairview site for mental health care is the smart thing to do. It is…