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Supervisor, Senator Discuss Mental Health Audits

Political maneuvering continued Tuesday as county officials struggled to settle bureaucratic infighting over management of Ventura County’s mental health department.

Supervisor Judy Mikels announced that she met state Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) in Wright’s Sacramento office Monday to discuss recent audits of the troubled mental health system. Mikels said she and Wright agreed to remain in contact while the reviews by the county auditor-controller’s office and the state Department of Mental Health are underway.

Both audits were prompted by Wright’s charge that Behavioral Health Department money was inappropriately used to cover the cost of running the county’s public hospital.

Pierre Durand, who manages the hospital and the mental health department, has not commented on the issue. But county chief executive Lin Koester has said he is not aware of any diversion of funds.

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Stephen Mayberg, director of the state Department of Mental Health, was scheduled to meet with county officials today to begin the audit process, which will include an assessment of finances and programs. Wright has threatened to cut off $5.3 million in special funding the mental health agency receives each year if the audits find the county is violating contracts with the state.

Both reviews are expected to take several weeks.

Also on Tuesday, board Chairwoman Susan Lacey continued to press a Ventura psychiatrist to support his assertion that the Behavioral Health Department is responsible for “child abuse, mismanagement of patients, faulty billing practices and preventable deaths.”

Lacey excoriated the published essay by Dr. Edward Arevalo as reckless and unfounded. On Monday she demanded that he provide proof of his claims within 24 hours. Arevalo, chief of psychiatry at the Ventura County Medical Center, responded Tuesday with a brief letter to Lacey stating that he would discuss the matter with county hospital and mental health department administrations.

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Lacey said she will write a second letter to Arevalo urging action.


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