Sacramento, CA—Disability rights activists filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Thursday, May 6, 2010. The suit was filed on behalf of mental health patients who may experience changes in the essential mental health programs they rely on. According to the pending litigation, the mental health programs would be made smaller and employ less workers as a means of saving the county money. In doing so, Disability Rights California claims the new county-operated mental health programs would violate patients’ rights, as reported by KCRA.com.
The class action lawsuit was filed against Sacramento County, in hopes that the county will keep regional support teams in place, or at least postpone the establishment of new ones for the time being.
Reports indicate the county is attempting to save approximately $18 million by modifying adult mental health services. The county apparently plans to create a smaller, county-run program employing about 100 fewer mental health employees than before. In just over a month, the county expects to find an operating site and train mental health workers, all the while maintaining the same level of services.
According to Director of Mental Health Mary Ann Bennett, “We are committed to providing the same level of services clients are now receiving from the contracted services in-house, county-operated. So, they will be provided for.”
On the other hand, Managing attorney for the Sacramento Regional Office of Disability Rights California stated, “We are having a hard time imagining how the county is going to put together the services with county staff, with fewer staff, and with staff that hasn’t been trained. It’s just not going to happen in time.”
Leslie Napper, a mental health patient who relies on a Regional Support Team in Sacramento County, Calif., stated, “I am going to decompensate. That’s a very dangerous place to be. Relapse is eminent… We do not know who are new counselors or case managers are. We have no idea where we are going to receive our next medication… I know there will be people dying.”
The Sacramento Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the matter in June. In the meantime, Disability Rights California is hoping a judge will a grant a provisional ban on the establishment of a new and unprepared mental health program.
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