$18 mil earmarked for mental health services

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Orange County is planning to build its own mental health and psychiatric emergency center that will transform the mental health services delivery system for Orange County residents, including those in Westminster, a good number of whom are homeless.

On Tuesday of this week, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved an $18 million proposal for the OC Wellness Hub, a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership that would provide mental health treatment to all residents of Orange County.

“Orange County is putting patients first,” said Supervisor Andrew Do. “This facility will provide all residents with access to the mental health care they need.”

The $18 million in Mental Health Services Act dollars would increase crisis services and substance use disorder services, access to under-served communities, improving system navigation to the appropriate level of care, and leveraging technology and partner collaborations among behavioral health service providers. The OC Wellness Hub would also address the challenge of accessing services due to payer source by accepting all types of insurance.

“We are transforming the way patients in Orange County access mental health care,” said Supervisor Do.

“We are very grateful to the OC Board of Supervisors for their commitment to the mental health of all residents in our community, and for their bold leadership in transforming a system of care and support.  When funded, these innovative programs will vastly improve access and quality of care to those most vulnerable in our community,” said Richard Afable MD, President of MindOC, the community benefit organization supporting BeWellOC.

In March 2018, the County of Orange spent $7.8 million to purchase a former school building located at 265 Anita St. in Orange and an additional $16.6 million for construction costs — with a plan to build a state-of-the-art mental health facility focused on access to mental, behavioral health, and substance abuse services.

To get the project off the ground, Orange County is collaborating with CalOptima, the county’s health insurance plan for seniors, people living with disabilities, and low-income residents; and Be Well OC, an alliance of public, private, academic and faith based leaders including local hospital systems such a Kaiser Permanente and St. Joseph Hoag Health.

If completed, the facility would be managed by Be Well OC and provide critical services based on clinical need, including a crisis stabilization unit.

The county’s plan will provide cross-system peer and fiscal navigation with 24/7 on-site support to help patients navigate care decisions and payment resources. It has also developed a network of providers to assist communities facing barriers to access. Those communities include veterans, people living with disabilities, immigrants, and LGBTQ people.

“This plan will make it possible to deliver on our promise to provide every patient with the treatment they need,” said Do.

Westminster has struggled with a homeless problem ever since hundreds of homeless people were uprooted from their encampments on the Santa Ana Riverbed. They dispersed to Westminster, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Fullerton and other cities.