The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last week to move forward with plans for a new youth mental health hospital that would start serving patients in about six years.
The inpatient facility would be the first of its kind in Santa Clara County and cost an estimated $222 million. County staff will now begin working with consultants to solidify the plan and secure funding.
A county feasibility report has mapped out the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center campus as the location for the new hospital, which would serve children between the ages of six and 17.
Patients who are insured, uninsured, Medi-Cal or Medicare recipients will be able to access care at the facility, according to the county. Doctors at the facility will provide a combination of medical and psychiatric care.
One mother who spoke in front of the supervisors said her daughter Tessa was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder after becoming psychotic in June 2011. Teresa Gallo said she drove as far as Bakersfield over a period of 10 months to visit Tessa and keep her company.
Tessa was later diagnosed with the autoimmune disease pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS). Gallo said her daughter, now 20, is permanently brain damaged and living at a group home in Milpitas.
“I made a promise to her four years ago to fight to get a [medical-psychiatric] hospital open in Santa Clara County, so no child will be misdiagnosed,” Gallo said. “Today truly is a day to celebrate.”
Supervisor Cindy Chavez thanked the dozens of mothers and parents who pleaded with the board for progress over the last several years. Chavez said the supervisors’ goal for youth with mental health problems is to “create a new norm, so we’re going to less funerals.”
Chavez and Supervisors Dave Cortese and Mike Wasserman said the facility will provide intensive treatment centers that will restrain or lock the patient if needed, without requiring the involvement of law enforcement.
“The sheer volume of people that end up in the jail when they shouldn’t be there has a lot to do with the way we determine who goes where,” said Chavez, explaining the county’s priority to keep both adults and children with mental health issues out of jail.
The county’s feasibility report suggests replacing the existing Don Lowe Pavilion with a 24-bed youth facility and an Emergency Psychiatric Services (EPS) Department to serve children and adults separately. The report estimates each patient would use the bed for about six days, providing care to as many as 2,000 patients over the course of a year.
County Executive Jeffrey Smith said the facility should be completed in between four to six years. The county began assessing construction costs for a youth hospital after Board President Joe Simitian introduced a motion in November 2017.
“This is about teens at risk of doing damage to themselves or others. This is about families struggling through the hardest thing they’ll ever face, and being torn apart at precisely the time they need to be together,” Simitian said in a news release. “This goes to the heart of community health and wellness.”
Story originally published by Bay City News.