ORANGE California — A panel of county officials met Tuesday to discuss the county’s extensive health and wellness program while teasing plans for the future.
The panel included supervisors Katrina Foley and Doug Chaffee as well as Be Well OC CEO Marshall Moncrief.
The panel convened at the two-acre Be Well OC campus in Orange, the start of what Moncrief called “a system of care” in which patients can expect immediate help as well as a plan. for the future. The county is planning two more Be Well OC campuses, strategically placed to provide broad access.
The idea is for every Orange County resident to have free access. Each campus is designed to respond to all phases of a crisis. A person with mental illness and addiction can be medically treated for withdrawal, see a clinician, and even stay for more than just a standard eight-hour dryout period common in prisons. All of these services are available in one place.
“We have good services, but we don’t have a system,” Moncrief said. “It’s like navigating a maze.”
Be Well OC also aims to build a network that can communicate quickly, made up of local hospitals, county health officials, and even the faith community.
One of the functions of Be Well OC is to centralize services so that someone suffering from a mental health or addiction crisis does not have to see a counselor or take medication after discharge. The services are intended to address the patient’s immediate needs and then move them to the next stage of treatment prior to discharge.
The Orange Campus, which has been running for about a year, is intended to save time and resources for other institutions traditionally responsible for treating emergency patients. Moncrief said Orange County had about 50,000 emergency room patients in 2021 who were there for substance abuse and mental health reasons. It’s not the best place for them, he says.
Neither does jail. The police have to spend at least an hour booking people in, then putting them in a solitary cell to sober them up. With Be Well OC, they simply accompany them to campus and then return to work.
“It’s not just a facility,” said panelist Dr. Veronica Kelly, chief mental health recovery service for the county. “It’s a philosophy.”
Be Well OC is intended to serve all comers, whether they are insured through work, Medicaid, or have no insurance.
The Orange campus is currently aimed at adults. But growing concerns about the mental health and well-being of children and young adults have sparked plans for additional programs. The county plans to accommodate these groups at new campuses. When and where these campuses will be have yet to be announced.
Some local towns have already started their own care systems. Huntington Beach built its Navigation Center to house, care for, and help move people to permanent accommodations. Costa Mesa has invested heavily in its programs and recently secured a $3.6 million grant to clean up a homeless encampment in Talbert Regional Park. This grant will be used for the maintenance of the park, a full-time employee to manage it and the accommodation of 60 people.
Foley also cited addiction to opioids, particularly fentanyl, as a major catalyst for recent spikes in homelessness.
Orange County is currently processing the results of its annual count, which will include, for the first time since 2019, homeless homeless populations.
The full range of social, mental health and economic factors influenced the execution of Be Well OC policy development. The system is not just designed as a place to drop off homeless or distraught citizens suffering from a mental health episode – the goal is lasting treatment.
“What we’ve created here is a one-stop shop,” Moncrief said.