By Bob Schelen and Cass Sylvia
There is an existing contract which will use Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) housing funds for a housing project on the site of the old Yolo General Hospital. On May 26, 2015, the Local Mental Health Board approved a motion for a joint LMHB and NAMI recommendation that asks you to review the contract for a potential opt-out. On June 13, 2015 the NAMI-Yolo Board approved the same motion.
Recent updates provided by the Alcohol Drug and Mental Health Department and Yolo Housing Authority have identified changes to the project’s timeline where the completion date is extended indefinitely.
Many individuals that are in need of such services cannot wait for housing support, and we urge that you review this project to determine whether the County is able to opt-out of this contract for a few reasons: 1) Individuals with mental illness urgently need this housing with supportive services immediately; 2) Housing costs are increasing and value of the MHSA funds will not be able to meet the cost of housing in the future; and 3) An opt-out provision in the contract may help put pressure on the contractors to expedite the project timeline if they perceive the Board is willing to withdraw their support for the project and use the opt-out provisions to terminate the contract.
It has also come to our attention that a proposal for apartments on the EMQ/Families First site has been proposed to the City of Davis. It seems study should be given to this site for possible use in a “Housing First” model for the mentally ill, homeless and others that need housing in our city and county.
Therefore we would recommend that you request your County’s Administration, that may include staff from your County Counsel, the Alcohol Drug and Mental Health Department, Yolo Housing Authority, and Contract Division, to review the contract provisions and submit a report to the Board to consider whether you have the authority to opt-out of the contract and inform stakeholders of these findings, so that they may support you in your efforts for alternative recommendations for a more timely completion of developing supportive housing services using MHSA Funds.
Further, that the Yolo Housing Authority, County of Yolo and City of Davis look into such an effort before approving any private use of the EMQ/Families First site.
This was a letter dated June 26 to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors. Bob Schelen is Chair of the Yolo County Local Mental Health Board and acting unanimously on their behalf. Cass Sylvia is President of NAMI-Yolo and the Elected Public Guardian of Yolo County.