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Turlock officials urge Stanislaus County to delay decision on mental health facility

Modesto Bee - 6/24/2024

Jun. 24—Turlock officials are asking Stanislaus County to postpone a decision Tuesday on a contract extension for a controversial mental health services residential facility on Colorado Avenue.

Turlock City Manager Reagan Wilson criticized the county for not communicating with the city when the contract with A&A Health Services, or Alamo Health, would go before the board for approval.

About 200 city residents packed a Turlock council meeting in February to oppose the adult residential care facility at the former Las Palmas Estates at 1617 Colorado. People expressed fears that adult clients with serious mental illness would endanger students at nearby Dutcher Middle School.

The center is down the street from another school and near pediatric medical offices, critics of the proposal said.

Clients of the center would receive behavioral counseling and assistance to take medication, but they could also come and go as they like.

In a letter to the Board of Supervisors last week, Wilson said the city found out from the contractor, not the county, that amendments to the agreement with A&A Health were scheduled for Tuesday's board meeting.

The contract extension is in a package of "agreements and amendments" with behavioral health service providers and is hard to find in a 132-page county staff report.

"After all that has transpired on this matter, we find it profoundly disappointing that I had to request the status of amendments to your agreement with (A&A) instead of the county reaching out to us to hear the concerns of our community," Wilson wrote last week. "It is clear the county has no interest in the effects of this facility in Turlock, including its proximity to a middle school, residences and medical facilities."

Turlock issued a press release Thursday on the upcoming board item, saying the proposed county decision was made without prior consultation with city residents. "We aim to ensure that all voices are heard in decisions affecting our residents," Mayor Amy Bublak said in the news release. "Our community seeks and deserves transparency and communication from the county."

The county CEO's office has not formally responded to Turlock's request to postpone the decision. The county maintains that its Behavioral Health and Recovery Services agency has placed clients at the Colorado Avenue center for several decades. A county spokesperson said the contract renewal is contingent on A&A Health obtaining licenses and city permits to re-open the former Las Palmas Estates facility, which was closed last year for renovations.

The center would reopen with 84 beds. In the past, 75% of clients placed at the facility had to be 60 years and older and 25% could be age 18 to 59. The plan would change that to 60 and older representing 25 percent of occupancy and allow 75% percent to be adults 18 to 59.

County Supervisor Vito Chiesa, whose district includes Turlock, said clients from Stanislaus County will be sent to other counties if there's no contract to place them at the Colorado Avenue center.

"In 16 years, I have not heard any complaints — that doesn't mean there haven't been any," Chiesa said. "(A&A) has good outcomes with their clients at their facility in San Pablo."

Chiesa said he will listen to the city's concerns at Tuesday's meeting.

Wilson wrote that most residents have complained the facility's location is improper. "Had the county and (A&A) approached the city with their plans in a timely fashion, we would have cooperated to identify a more appropriate location for such a facility that was not so near to school children and children receiving medical treatment," his letter said.

The county staff report said the contract with A&A was for $6.14 million over a period from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2024. The amendment is for $7.76 million for services between July 1 and June 30, 2025.

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday, in the basement chamber of Tenth Street Place, at 1010 10th St, Modesto.

This story was originally published June 24, 2024, 4:54 PM.

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