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Graves’ 11th-Hour RX May Be Ignored

Times Staff Writer

Chief Administrative Officer Clifford Graves’ ambitious proposal to reorganize San Diego County’s Department of Health Services may never be implemented, interviews with county supervisors indicated Tuesday.

With Graves’ future as the county’s top administrator due to be decided a week from today, it appears likely that his ideas for turning the troubled department around will not be taken seriously until his fate is decided.

By late Tuesday afternoon, 24 hours after they had received the proposal Graves said could spur dramatic changes in the health department, only two of the five supervisors knew enough about the document to comment on it.

Supervisor Leon Williams, chairman of the board, said he had not had a chance to read the report. “I’ve been very, very busy,” Williams said.

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Supervisor Paul Eckert said he had not been briefed on the proposal by Graves and would not comment on its specific recommendations. Supervisor George Bailey was on a weeklong trip to Pittsburgh to attend meetings of the National Assn. of Regional Councils.

Only Supervisors Susan Golding and Brian Bilbray had read the proposal closely enough to comment on it Tuesday, and neither sounded optimistic about its chances of being adopted.

Specifically, Graves’ proposal calls for adding $1.3 million to the health department’s budget and hiring more than 25 new employees, most of them in a reorganized division of mental health services. It blames problems at the Edgemoor Geriatric Hospital and the county’s mental health hospital in Hillcrest on cutbacks in the department since the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978.

Graves said the county should hire an assistant to help Director James B. Forde run the department and create a private “quality assurance unit” to inspect county hospitals regularly.

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Although Golding said she agreed with many of Graves’ recommendations, she said she wondered why it took him so long to propose the changes.

“If there are problems with the funding, with the lack of administrators, it’s the CAO’s job to come to the board members and tell them,” Golding said. “That could have been done a year ago, two years ago.”

Bilbray said he found the proposal’s $1.3-million cost, about $100,000 of which would come from the county’s general fund, prohibitive.

“Some of the concepts are great, but the price tag could choke a horse,” Bilbray said. “I don’t think it’s going to fly.”

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Bilbray also questioned the wisdom of adding more management to the department.

“How many more hired guns does it take to get the management operating properly?” he asked.

The board is scheduled to meet in closed session next Wednesday to evaluate Graves, whose job is on the line because of problems in the health department and elsewhere in county government.


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