At a meeting Tuesday, March 15, the Plumas County Board of Supervisors (BOS) directed staff to prepare a proposal to begin providing alcohol and drug (A&D) services again in fiscal year 2011-12, ending a 30-month gap in state-funded aid.
BOS Chairwoman Lori Simpson explained she and Indian Valley Supervisor Robert Meacher recently met with a committee consisting of County Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad, County Public Health Director Mimi Hall and various local legal officials.
She said three representatives from the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs (ADP) also attended the meeting.
She commented that the state was holding more than $500,000 in A&D funds for Plumas County, which could fund a year’s worth of services.
Simpson added that the county owed more than $100,000 in audit exceptions from its previous A&D department.
The chairwoman voiced concerns about beginning a new A&D department because of fears that new audit exceptions could be incurred.
She said contracting with Lassen County to expand its program and provide services here would be one option.
Plumas County Counsel Craig Settlemire advised, “Based upon these uncertainties regarding the funding, it (is) probably not appropriate to gear up and have … in-house services provided by county employees but it would probably be better to have these services provided through contract.”
He explained the county could contract with an independent service provider or another county, but either way someone in Plumas would have to be assigned to monitor use of the funding to ensure “we don’t have audit exceptions as we had in the past.”
He said another factor was that the local courts administered a drug court and a Proposition 36 treatment-in-lieu-of-incarceration program for the last two years but “made it very clear that by the end of this fiscal year they will not be in position to continue to do that.”
This means if the county did nothing there would be even fewer A&D related services provided next year compared to the previous two years.
Meacher said the funding would go away if the county didn’t commit to use it by July 1.
“There’s a lot of positive information that was relayed to us by the state department of alcohol and drug, who was more than willing to assist us in the transition.
“They came up pretty much trying to support our efforts in reestablishing the services.”
The Indian Valley supervisor told the board the committee recommended moving forward.
“There’s a horrendous need,” Simpson added.
Eastern Plumas Supervisor Terry Swofford’s contribution to the discussion was to point out that the demographics for people who used A&D services in the last three years included one person who was identified as “other” instead of male or female.
The supervisor laughed and asked what that meant.
Meacher responded that someone might have declined to state a gender when filling out a form.
Graeagle Supervisor Jon Kennedy said he knew everyone was worried about uncertainty in the state budget, “however, I think we need to take a little bit of a gamble here and progress into getting this A&D department together and almost immediately start seeking out avenues to do it.”
“Well we don’t want a department; we’re going to contract,” Simpson responded.
Kennedy: “We don’t know if we do yet, do we?”
Simpson: “Yeah, we do.”
Kennedy: “Oh, I didn’t know that we did.”
Simpson: “I think that we don’t want a department. I’m against a department.”
Kennedy: “I’m against running a department deficiently like it was before.”
Meacher commented that, in any case, the supervisors needed to move quickly.
“Our issue, the way our calendar works, is we’ve got a little over 90 days, maybe 90 days and a week assuming we meet three times a month to knock this thing out, and as you all know that goes by very quickly.
“That’s why we brought it to you today to give staff direction to move forward in working through the issues and bringing us back a proposal sooner than later.”
Former County District Attorney Jeff Cunan, who has been one of the most vocal public advocates for restarting services, asked if the committee meeting identified the factors that “account for the other 57 counties having such services and ours not.”
“Is there something special about Plumas County that we just, for two-plus years, can’t provide these services or accept these monies to provide these services?”
“We haven’t lost a lot of the funding; they’ve been holding it for us,” Meacher clarified. “But we do have that June 30 drop-dead date that if we don’t (act) we will lose a lot of it.”
“We did not have a direct discussion as to why we’re such an anomaly,” he responded, adding the meeting did reveal that many counties teamed up or contracted out to provide the services.
Speaking about the contracting idea Cunan commented, “Plumas Rural Services (PRS) is across the street and they have very good people over there, very good services they can’t provide because the people coming to them don’t have any money and there’s no other money to run it.”
“On that point, Lori and I both want to encourage the board to be as local as possible,” Meacher agreed.
“We were given the example of Alpine County who contracts out for services, but the contractor is someplace down in San Bernardino or Riverside County and that’s not a real efficient way to work for your clients.”
PRS A&D Services Program Manager Dean Tedford told the board his group worked with the Plumas Superior Court to provide services for the Proposition 36 and Drug Court programs for the last two years.
“As far as I know, PRS is the only certified Alcohol and Drug Program in the county.”
Addressing the court’s inability to continue those programs into the next year he said, “We’ve had really good success over the last two years, and my fear right now is come July if something isn’t done there’s a whole group of clients that we have re-engaged back into services that all of a sudden July 1 they aren’t going to have anymore.”
“I think Judge Kaufman deserves a whole lot of credit for keeping some services going in this county when there were no services.
“He went really out of his way to ensure that that money came at least for the criminal justice system, those people got services.”
Plumas County District Attorney’s Fiscal Officer Barbara Palmerton agreed, adding that state funding for juvenile offender treatment was likely going away next year as well.
She said the program just got $14,000 for the next few months and “it’s not really possible to move forward with starting up something unless we know there’s going to be some kind of juvenile services available on July 1.”
As the discussion wound down, Kennedy moved for a minute order directing staff to “restart A&D services in Plumas County as soon as possible and to continue it as long as there is funding available.”
The board approved the motion and Meacher vowed a proposal would come before the board as soon as possible.
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