County to Build New Mental Health Facility for Kids in Crisis

November 7, 2017


The Board of Supervisors today voted unanimously to construct an inpatient psychiatric facility for youth in crisis in Santa Clara County — an issue that goes to the heart of community health and wellness, said Supervisor Joe Simitian.

“This is about teens at risk of doing damage to themselves or others. This is about families struggling through the hardest thing they'll ever face, and being torn apart at precisely the time they need to be together,” said Simitian, who has led the effort to add inpatient care to the continuum of youth-focused mental health services in the county.

“On any given day nearly 20 Santa Clara County children are being hospitalized for psychiatric emergencies outside the county, some as far away as Sacramento,” Simitian added. “It's better therapeutically for these kids to be close to their community when they’re in crisis — close to their family, their friends, and their own local mental health providers.”

Given the absence of local inpatient psychiatric care hospital beds, some families are referred to facilities in Vallejo, Concord, San Francisco or Sacramento. Because of liability and safety protocols, parents are often not allowed to drive their children. In many cases, that means hours in the ER waiting for an available bed, and paying thousands of dollars for ambulance transport out of pocket. 

“Separating these kids from their families at one of the toughest times in their lives, that's just hell on them. I’m also worried that the specter of long distance treatment could deter kids and families from seeking the help they need in the first place,” said Simitian.

The Board directed County staff to prepare detailed construction and operational plans for an adolescent acute psychiatric facility with up to 36 beds on the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center campus in San Jose. The operational foundation will be collaborative, utilizing the breadth of community expertise to provide a comprehensive safety net, including preventive, emergency, acute, transitional and long-term mental health services for youth.

Key health partners potentially include Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, Kaiser Permanente, Uplift Family Services, El Camino Hospital, and others.

Brenda Taussig, Director of Government and Community Relations at El Camino Hospital, testified that, “We think the need for these beds is clear.” She was among the more than two dozen parents, educators, community members, and health care professionals testifying in support.

Simitian noted that a 36-bed facility has the potential to serve "hundreds and hundreds of families” annually, given that the typical patient stay in such a facility is just six days.

Dr. Jeffery Smith, County Executive, estimated that more detailed plans will come back to the Board of Supervisors for consideration and approval within the next six months.



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