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My Public Comment (extended version)

Last updated on May 15, 2023

I gave a summary of the longer public comment below urging the Executive Board to:

  1. Form an Executive Board: Building a Better BHAB (BBB) Workgroup that focuses on the objectives, strategies, and tactical decisions addressing the overall BHAB’s duties and work.
  2. Continue the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) and Criminal Justice Workgroups
  3. Reinstate the Stakeholder Engagement Workgroup to address related work.

My longer comment is as follows.

Thank you Executive Board Members, Dr. Bergmann, Staff and any other guests

For nearly a decade you have heard me either on the Alcohol and Other Drug Advisory Board and the Behavioral Health Advisory Board, implore these boards to perform the work some of us who have received the training, many of us multiple times over the years, that meet the intent and requirements in the MHSA and by extension our Bylaws.

Many of you have personally witnessed the resistance and outright refusal of the BHS Director and many top-level staff to directly address the issues I have raised, documented, and cited throughout. I am not suggesting superfluous work. I am suggesting the BHAB do the work that we are supposed to be doing.

You have also witnessed the targeted dismemberment of this BHAB, with many Members including Deanne, Jennifer, Rebecca, Che, and myself unexpectedly removed. One day after I filed a complaint with the State DHS about the troubling issues of concern, and after having tried through the official Issue Resolution Process for the previous six months, without receiving a response from the BHS Director, I was given the news of my termination by email during the monthly full BHAB meeting.

Continuing their pattern, the BHS has not responded to either my questions or queries either in BHAB meetings or committees when I sat as a Board Member, through written requests, or complaints; and they have failed to do even when some of you in this room today, and in this very Executive Board meeting, asked them to do, which they promised to deliver, but again, did nothing. And you all did nothing to follow-up and hold them to their word.

As you know, this isn’t a game. I’m certainly not playing. What this is however, is a significantly funded ($900m this fiscal year) government body flipping their finger off to an oversight body in the BHAB that has authority to poke, prod, ponder, and opine on their work. They clearly don’t want that.

They certainly don’t want to answer probing questions about how we as a county and as a Behavioral Health System are addressing the behavioral health needs of the community when we are all seeing astronomical increases in overdose deaths (1k+ last year), record-breaking jail deaths (19 this year to date, nearly all overdoses), and rampant homelessness.  They don’t want your input when redesigning entire data collection and reporting systems, or when they procure hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts every year. They certainly don’t want to answer why they will again be sitting on a now record $174m in MHSA funds received over the last three years rather than spending it on these crises. And they definitely don’t seem to want to do any of this being prioritized by a community of consumers and non-conflicted stakeholders.

For the latter, they have finally launched and procured a vendor to conduct the Community Program Planning (CPP) elements but, once again, true to form, the BHAB had no chance to review and approve their CPP plans or budget. In fact, the entire May 2022 procurement was done with little to no input from the BHAB. To cap it all off, you are routinely approving a MHSA 3-Year Plan and Update months into the current fiscal year, approving the ‘plan’ months after the BHS has already begun spending the money.

So, enough of what they don’t want. What I implore you to do is focus on fixing this mess.

One way to do that is to form an Executive BHAB Workgroup, continuing the work of the Building a Better BHAB workgroup from 2018-19 era, that focuses on the strategic and tactical direction of this body.

For the larger BHAB I urge you to continue the Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) and Criminal Justice (CJ) Workgroups, as well as adding a Stakeholder Engagement (SE) Workgroup that continues the work from the 2020-21 era.

Your primary duty is to ensure consumers and stakeholders are engaged meaningfully throughout the year but, you have yet to have ever once approve a CPP plan, in direct conflict with state law. Many of our BHAB members have never received formal training which is provided annually by the state. The BHAB routinely breaks Brown Act and Robert’s Rules of Order practices. Board Members are often sent and handed documents the day of the meetings inappropriately and many of these are never published.

There is plenty the BHAB could do to improve its work and I hope you all will consider addressing these issues.

We can do better.

Thank you.

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