By Madison Forwood
The Yolo County Board of Supervisors was in agreement to not move forward with the implementation of a mental health correctional facility in the county after hearing Phase 1 results from a feasibility study.
The regional mental health correctional facility would have been a shared project among ten counties surrounding Yolo County. The Board of Supervisors chose to not move forward with the project due to the estimated costs and the supervisors’ lack of interest in another expensive incarceration facility.
At the meeting on Sept. 29, the commissioners were presented with a feasibility study run by CGL Companies, LLC. The study had four core points including an assessment of an ideal model with central delivery of mental health services, a cost/benefit analysis, the estimated total cost for Yolo County and an analysis of current treatment populations and county services (run by Wellpath, a for-profit healthcare provider for correctional facilities).
Evans stated, “The reason we initially went after this project in October 2019 is the result of the work that Yolo County has done for several years now with Stepping Up initiative and looking at ways to increase mental health services for folks in the criminal justice system, looking at ways to improve the services they receive, ideally reduce recidivism, and decrease the length of stay for folks that are in custody.”
“These were some of the gaps and needs that were identified through the Stepping Up process at the time and potential solutions,” Evans continued. “We felt like in October 2019 when we approached this project it fit nicely into these possible solutions, and was something worth exploring for Yolo County.”
Within Yolo County, the Sheriff’s Department and Wellpath provided data on mental health care demands for incarcerated people to CGL Companies, LLC.
Several county agencies, including the County Administrator’s Office, Sheriff’s Office and Health and Human Services Agency, reviewed Phase 1 of the feasibility study. The agencies came to the same conclusion as the Board of Supervisors, that they thought the new mental health facility would be too costly.
The Community Correction Partnership (CCP) also reviewed the Phase 1 report, but did not make an official statement.
The estimated cost of the new regional mental health correctional facility was broken down into two possible plans for the ten counties to split. The first plan was to divide the cost based on population in each county. This would mean that construction would cost Yolo County an estimated $7,353,350.47 with an annual upkeep cost of $2,841,270.
The second plan would be based on each county’s projected utilization of the facility. This would lead to an estimated $2,557,687.33 in construction costs and $988,268 in annual fees for Yolo County. Some of Yolo County’s government agencies were able to assess that only an estimated six beds would be utilized based on the current number of mentally ill incarcerated people that would benefit from a facility such as this one.
After evaluating the total cost of the new mental health correctional facility, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted not to move forward with the project. The board members mentioned other potentially more cost effective options to improve mental health care for those incarcerated.
Vice Chair Jim Provenza stated, “I think that whatever we do here, we will need to spend money, and it is expensive to provide mental health care but probably not this expensive. But we should redouble our efforts to find solutions that will provide adequate mental health care to these individuals.”
During the public comment period, numerous people expressed their opposition to another incarceration facility in the area. All of the public commenters were in agreement that increased mental health care in the incarceration system is a necessity, but suggested other buildings could be repurposed as a cheaper option.
Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Jonathon Raven said, “When this concept came up it was such a great concept unfortunately it fell by the wayside due to the costs.
“What I want the board and the public to know is the dire situation we are in for those who are incompetent to stand trial, sitting in our jail, in their cell twenty three hours a day because there are no beds available at the state hospital…And that’s why the expansion is so critical we need the space to do these sorts of things and to treat those who have serious mental illnesses that we are unable to treat quite frankly right now. And it’s very sad.”
Yolo County will not move forward with the regional mental health correctional facility due to costs, however the Board of Supervisors said they will continue to look for ways to improve resources and treatment for inmates with mental illnesses in Yolo County. Evans will present Yolo County’s decision to not participate in the project to Sacramento County in the near future.
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