Supervisors seek review of mental health department

Debra Moore

Staff Writer

The Plumas County Board of Supervisors is hiring a consultant to review the mental health department and then giving the $25,000 bill for that service to the department, all of which came as a surprise to Mental Health Director Peter Livingston.

“I wasn’t consulted by anyone and I didn’t know it was going to be on the agenda,” Livingston said during the board’s May 6 meeting.

Supervisors Jon Kennedy and Lori Simpson, who recommended the department’s review, apologized to Livingston for the oversight.

Livingston also objected to the choice of Kemper Consulting Group, saying he researched the group and they only worked with issues involving Public Health and Social Services such as MediCal.

“I’d like to say it publicly, they do not have experience in mental health,” he said.

Kennedy said that the consultant who would be assigned to Plumas County had worked with Shasta County to turn its program around and he described it as “far worse.”

The consultant will assess seven areas including finances and client services.

Kennedy said that he has been hearing complaints about the mental health department since he became a candidate for supervisor, and despite everyone’s efforts, complaints remain.

He acknowledged there were significant problems facing the department including the very nature of the work, state and federal regulations and a turnover in leadership.

“I haven’t been able to put my thumb on specifically what needs to be done,” Kennedy said.

“I have taken an active role in figuring this out,” said Simpson, who also serves on the Mental Health Commission.

She met several times with criminal justice partners critical of the department for its lack of services.

Coincidentally there were many members of law enforcement in the audience for other agenda items and Livingston mentioned their presence.

“I don’t think law enforcement people are here for this,” Simpson said.

“We’re here for the boats,” Assistant Sheriff Gerry Hendrick said in reference to an agenda item about safe boating events scheduled for later in the meeting.

Livingston also referenced the consulting group’s penchant for recommending that departments be combined.

“I wonder if this is another agenda,” he said, “a movement to behavioral health.”

“Our attention is to look at mental health,” Kennedy said, but added that during the process Social Services, Public Health and criminal justice would also become involved.

“I get damn sick of us taking things personally,” Kennedy told Livingston.

“It’s the people out there that we serve,” he added referring to county residents.

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