VENTURA, Calif. – In a joint statement, the County of Ventura and Casa Pacifica have clarified the steps that have, and will be, taken to transfer the responsibilities of Casa Pacifica's Children's Intensive Response Team to the County's Behavioral Health Department.
Out of concern for children experiencing severe mental crises, the County worked to establish a system that would simplify the experience for the affected families and provide a seamless community-based continuum of care for children in crisis. This system included Behavioral Health staffing the CIRT. Casa Pacifica was notified of the transfer in February 2016, with the transfer taking full effect on July 1. The contract between Casa Pacifica and the County called for a one-month notice, however the February notice provided for five months.
"It's important to note this decision was not based on any dissatisfaction with Casa Pacifica's performance," said Elaine Crandall, Director of Behavioral Health. "Rather, it was made to give families a single point of contact from start to finish, and give the County the ability to track the children throughout the various stages of their crisis."
Following initial notification, the Behavioral Health Department met with Casa Pacifica in March 2016 to finalize the transition plan between the two organizations and a timeline for the transfer was agreed on. Among other things, this plan included specific schedules of coverage as well as phone roll-over protocols and the planned role law enforcement would play in providing back-up coverage.
"All of the stakeholders involved in and affected by this program transition -- law enforcement and hospital emergency rooms, along with Casa Pacifica's CIRT team and especially the County's crisis team and leadership – have worked diligently to assure that children and families in crisis get the care they need when they need it. We are proud to be part of this effort and proud to be in a community where first responders care so deeply about our most vulnerable children and youth", said Steve Elson, Casa Pacific CEO.
In addition to the transition plan, the county has developed staffing and training plans and worked with staff and the SEIU to prepare for the CIRT transition.
"When a partner is transferring services back to the County, we could have been met with months of all-out resistance," said Crandall. "Instead, the response from Casa
Pacifica has been as professional and coordinated as we could possibly hope for. While some issues may occur during the transition, Casa Pacifica and the County have, and will continue, to work cooperatively and rapidly to immediately address such issues. This speaks to our shared passion to put the children first. We are doing what we have always done, partnering together to do what's right for children in crisis."
To further ease the transition, the County has hired Eric Elhard, the former supervisor of Casa Pacifica's CIRT to join the County staff managing the Crisis Continuum. He will assume his new duties on May 2, 2016. His addition will result in the County having three supervisors overseeing the Continuum: two for mobile crisis response and one for the Crisis Stabilization Unit crisis team. These supervisors are in addition to the Continuum manager and nine additional staff which have been added in this area, bringing the total number of professional on the crisis team to 31.
The transfer of the Children's Intensive Response Team into the County crisis continuum of care is a key step toward making it the most comprehensive program in the state.