Claremont Insider: Mental Health Woes

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mental Health Woes

A Daily Bulletin article by Will Bigham reports today that the Tri-City Mental Health Center's debt repayment plan has been approved by a federal bankruptcy judge.

Tri-City is operated by Claremont, La Verne and Pomona and provides mental health services to people in the three cities. Tri-City Mental Health is unique in Los Angeles County. In all other areas, the county itself provides the services Tri-City is responsible for.

In fact, Tri-City is one of only two city-level mental health agencies in California. The only other one is operated by the City of Berkeley. Everywhere else in the state, counties, with the help of state and federal funding, provide access to mental health services.

Tri-City, according to Bigham's article, got into trouble by expanding too fast and ended up having to cut staff and services and to sell most of its facilities after it declared bankruptcy in early 2004. The agency's debt totaled over $20 million, mostly to the state and to Los Angeles County.

Jesse Duff, who in 2005-06 served as Claremont's interim City Manager, is now interim director for Tri-City. The article states that the three communities are trying to work on community outreach to figure out Tri-City's future.

The state of California's California Performance Review (CPR), however, singled out the Berkeley and Tri-City mental health agencies as being redundant and recommended phasing them out and replacing them with county-level services. According to the state's CPR report:

Tri-City Mental Health Center

The Tri-City Mental Health Center developed in a very different manner [from Berkeley's program]. It was established in the early 1960s by three Los Angeles County cities-Pomona, Claremont and La Verne-as a Municipal Joint Powers Authority. When they established Tri-City, the three cities were isolated geographically from the rest of Los Angeles, and the cities were concerned that the county would not provide an adequate level of mental health service to their residents. Today the Tri-City area is integral to, and contiguous with, the rest of greater Los Angeles. Nonetheless, the Tri-City Mental Health Center has continued to operate separately from the County of Los Angeles, submitting its own claims, cost reports and client data to DMH [the state's Department of Mental Health].

Recently, Tri-City Mental Health Center has had financial difficulties, and in February 2004, it filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 9. The case is now in federal court and Tri-City is developing a plan for continued operation. However, Tri-City owes DMH $12 million in federal funds due to over-claiming for Medi-Cal services, and DMH is listed as its largest creditor. Tri-City continues to receive its full share of realignment funds but has reduced the level of services it provides, prompting the County of Los Angeles to express concern that it will become responsible for services formerly rendered by Tri-City without additional funding. In addition, Tri-City has recently cancelled several service contracts with the county.


No other state has been identified that faces a comparable situation under which anomalous city programs continue to operate within a county-based mental health system. Further, the politics of each of the two affected counties are unique to those areas.