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Why was the MHSA Annual Update (Plan), released during, not before, the applicable year… and released without the public knowing about it?

UPDATE: A September 22nd version of the plan including active hyperlinks was updated on the county website sometime thereafter, almost a full week after I notified the BHS, and is available for your review.


Welcome to the next installment of the continuing saga of the state’s second largest county’s Behavioral Health Services (BHS) thumbing their nose at the public, especially those who are experiencing serious mental illness (SMI) and their families, the latter being the one stakeholder supposed to be steering just how the BHS spends it’s budget each year.

In this installment you’ll see that the MHSA Annual Update (aka, Three Year Annual Plan and Update) was posted on the county website after the latest Behavioral Health Advisory Board (BHAB) meeting.

Out of concern that the plan wasn’t on the agenda, this author made a public comment noting so, while expressing concern that the plan is, once again as is the case every recent-past year, being released months into the budget year the plan itself is intended to represent.

In other words, the BHS is releasing a ‘plan’ for public review, as required by state law, three months after it has already started spending the money (tens of millions) the plan ‘proposes’… and, most importantly long after our SMI and families, and the public, have had any opportunity to share their ideas, concerns, and recommendations.

Here’s the letter sent this afternoon:

A Letter to the BHS Director

Hi Dr. Bergmann,

It is beyond frustrating to learn that your office released the 2022-23 MHSA Annual Update without announcing it to the public, especially during the BHAB meeting held two weeks ago on September 1st 2022. Given it was not publicly released I urge you to hold off the public hearing until the November 3rd meeting.

Further, simply posting the document on the internet is not a good faith effort to release the plan to the public. Not mentioning it in the one meeting each month dedicated to community involvement is also not a good-faith measure. Remaining silent when the issue of the lack of a plan being released during public comment period as I did is yet another lost opportunity to have clarified this situation.

Although I appreciate the direction we are moving with the Community Program Planning (CPP) processes, even with its many current shortcomings, seeing how this beyond-late annual ‘plan’ update is being handled is more than concerning, it’s alarming. Another more technical concern is when I tried viewing sources in this MHSA Annual Update, I have yet to find a single URL that is actively hyperlinked to their internet-based source, rendering the document non-interactive. One could copy and paste many exposed URLs but, some key ones, where words are hyperlinked for instance, there is no way to identify what URL one must type in to view the associated resource. Current version: https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/dam/sdc/hhsa/programs/bhs/documents/NOC/MHSA/MHSA%20Final.pdf (note: by the time you click this link to the document available as of today, an amended document may have been posted. Here’s the original document available today.)

I cc’d Dania as the BHAB Liaison and Kathleen as the new engagement lead, along with the Executive Board and MHSA Consumer and Family Liaisons’ in the hopes the URLs issue can be corrected immediately so we don’t lose even more time trying to understand what you have included in this plan, and that the Executive Board and you do indeed postpone the Public Hearing as requested.

Thank you!

Jerry

What’s Next?

Next up? Let’s read this version quick. We may only have the next two weeks to read, understand, meet about, and prepare for the Public Hearing currently scheduled for October 6th, 2022.

By all means, please submit your public comments here about concerns and accolades relating to various elements as you see fit.

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