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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
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February 11, 2015     Feather River Bulletin
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February 11, 2015
 

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2A Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015 Feather River Bulletin Plumas County Mental Health director resigns Dan McDonald Managing Editor drncdonald@plumasnews.com Plumas County Mental Health Director Peter Livingston offered his resignation last week. After some discussion, the Board of Supervisors unanimously accepted it. Livingston, who has been leading the department for 15 months, agreed to stay on as interim director for three months to help the county with a transition plan. "It was with equal parts of regret and relief that I offered the Board of Supervisors my letter of resignation as Director of Mental Health," Livingston wrote in a letter to the newspaper Sunday, Feb. 8. "Unabating levels of intense stress and little hope that crucial factors would significantly change eroded my hopes of playing a productive and positive role in the ongoing development of Plumas County Mental Health. "The toll taken on my physical health was increasing over time, not decreasing as expected. Working under such challenging conditions thus became unsustainable at a personal le,el." Livingston resigned during the closed session following the supervisors' regular Tuesday meeting Feb. 3. He was scheduled to have a performance evaluation during the session. "The Board expresses its sincere appreciation for Peter's hard work on the very difficult issues facing Plumas County Mental Health over his 15 months as Director," Board Chairman Kevin Goss wrote in a prepared statement. "The board appreciates Peter's offer to assist during the transition." Livingston said he plans to take some time off after the transition to a new director is complete. He said he was entertaining the idea of spending time in India, and possibly establishing a private practice when he returns. 'I want to keep my hands in the broader mental health needs in the community," he said. Livingston's 15-month tenure was punctuated by ongoing criticism from law enforcement leaders, particularly District Attorney David Hollister. The district attorney and sheriff accused Mental Health of failing to provide adequate services to people in the criminal justice system. They were critical of Mental Health for a perceived lack of collaboration. They questioned the department for putting clients on waiting ists despite having an estimated $7 million reserve fund. Livingston was openly frustrated by the criticism. And he regularly fought back. He said "strong levels of negativity have overshadowed the creation of a more positive, cooperative, "The toll taken on my physical health was increasing over time, not decreasing as expected. Working under such challenging conditions thus became unsustainable at a personal level." Peter Livingston Director Plumas County Mental Health Department and healthy working environment." Under Livingston's direction, Mental Health initiated a $3.2 million Mental Health Services Act plan that he said "will greatly expand access and services to clients and the community in the upcoming years." He said, contrary to accusations, Mental Health was serving the jail and courts and wasn't "picking and choosing" who received services. He said he wanted to provide more seryices, but said his department was extremelyunderstaffed and unable to fill vacant positions because of the county's low pay scale. Last year the Plumas County Grand Jury and an independent auditing firm affirmed several of the law enforcement leaders' complaints. Both reports claimed the Mental Health Department lacked organization and didn't collaborate well. The audit, conducted by Kemper Consulting Group, cited Livingston's lack of management experience as ont of the department's 13 problem areas. Livingston's rocky relationship with local law enforcement reached a breaking point last month, Superior Court Judge Ira Kaufman voiced frustration after learning that five felony defendants in a Jan. 16 court session weren't receiving adequate court-ordered mental health services. The judge said the current system wasn't working. "The court is done playing the game," Kaufman said. "We are not providing citizens the appropriate services that they need .... People are being set up for failure. I will not let that happen." The judge said the county should re-examine the way it delivers health and human services. "This is an opportunity to fix some problems," Kaufman said. "It's an opportunity to, work together to provide services to the community. "Assembly Bill 109 and Proposition 47 have forced us to re-examine the way we do business .... All counties are having problems; this is not unique to us." More than 25 counties in the state have adopted an integrated health and human services delivery system to serve clients. That system puts public health, mental health, alcohol and drug and other social services under one umbrella. Supervisor Lori Simpson said implementing a similar system in Plumas County might be considered. Sheriff Greg Hagwood said the county should step back and thoroughly evaluate its mental health program., "I think the Mental Health Department has undergone a lot of turmoil over the last year or two," Hagwood said. "This will offer the board and county an opportunity to recruit someone who can bring all the paxtners together in a meaningful and productive way. "I think the most important thing is that you don't rush the selection (of a new Mental Health director) to address a short-term crisis. We should take whatever time is needed to dedicate whatever resources are needed to identify the best person... That will be money well spent." Supervisor Simpson said the county plans to advertise the opening soon. "I think we need to get things moving along because there are so many issues hanging," Simpson said. "There's the Mental Health Services Act plan and the hiring of more therapists .. The supervisors recently approved the hiring of 36 additional staffers for the Mental Health Department. Simpson noted that only three people applied for the director job when Livingston was hired. When asked if the supervisors would search nationally for a new director and use a consultant to help find candidates she said, "That's a possibility but we haven't discussed that yet." She Said she didn't foresee the supervisors assembling a "local panel" to aid in the hiring process. "We know what we need to look for," she said. Simpson said she continues to contact neighboring counties for ideas and advice. "We are committed to making sure the Mental Health Department is running the best that it can," Simpson said. "The entire board wants the best for all of our citizens. And we are going to keep working until we get there ... I know I am," she said. "I'm not going to give up. I've been putting a lot of time into this." Services district:,.; to pay for income survey reimbursement James Wilson Staff Writer jwilson@plumasnews.corn It looks like Quincy Community Services District and East Quincy Services District willhave to  ...... reimburse the state for an.:  income study conducted last year, Tom Yagerhofer told the QCSD board Feb. 5. Yagerhofer, former interim executive director for the Plumas County Development Commission, presented the board with the results of an income survey of residents in both districts. According to Yagerhofer, thd results showed that ' AmericanValley's residents are financially looking pretty good. That is not so good for the districts, however. In 2012, the county received a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that funded various activities. One activity the grant funded was a survey to determine the eligibilitjr of the districts to apply for future block grants. These grants would be based on the income of American Valley residents. If the surveys showed that at least 51 percent of residents fell into the low to moderate income category, grants would be available for the service districts. Over the course of the last half of 2014, surveys were mailed out to customers of both American Valley districts. The Plumas County Development Commission also sent out surveys to customers of the Grizzly Lake Community Services District. In order for the survey to be considered valid, 350 returned surveys were needed. In November 2014 the commission finally received enough responses. "It just didn't bring in the numbers we would like to see," Yagerhofer told the board. In total, 42.82 percent of those who submitted surveys fell into the low to moderate income category. The East Quincy district averaged 32.9 percent while the Quincy district averaged 51.63 percent. SPAGHETTI DINNER ALL YOU CAN EAT Sunday, February 15, 2015 4pm -7pro 398 2nd Ave. Since tle survey did not get the results they hoped . :: for, it would be advantageous for the districts to not submit the results. This would allow them to workofftheir . previous survey, which had more favorable results, when applying for grants. The districts will have to pay back the money used to run the surveys, however. If the surveys had shown an average of 51 percent or higher, the districts would not be required to do - SO. The reimbursement amount will range from $4,000 to $7,000 per district, Yagerhofer said. He then told the board he will try to reduce the amount in the next few months. "I want to think of how to not have you on the hook as much as possible," he said. "We'll try our best to mitigate the expense for yOU." 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