Supervisors: VC must find more funds
for Todd Jail medical, mental unit

January 15, 2016
Santa Paula News

The Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed Tuesday to accept a $26 million state grant to build a medical and mental health unit at Todd Road Jail, but it is still about $30 million short of the projected actual cost.

The proposed 64-bed medical unit could not be reduced to be cost effective Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told supervisors who added the caveat to their approval that the rest of the funding must be found.

The proposed expansion has been a controversial one in Santa Paula: the previous City Council formally registered their opposition to the addition to the jail, located west of the city. That stance was reversed by a majority of present council, which last year cited their lack of concern with Santa Paula being identified as a “jail town” and noted they would deal with issues such as water later in the process if money is ever found to fund the expansion. 

The jail, first opened in the mid-1990s with a planned build-out of 2,100 beds, currently has beds for 840 inmates. 

Dean told supervisors Tuesday that a smaller medical-mental health unit is not just a matter of funds but rather, “We have to have it,” due to the number of inmates requiring specialized care.

According to his staff report, “inmate population (roughly 100 inmates) has been diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness, requiring specialized care and housing. A higher number of inmates are taking some form of psychotropic medication. 

“To temporally accommodate these inmates, a portion of one housing Unit at the PTDF that was originally designed for inmates in general population,” at Ventura’s Main Jail, “has been designated as the main housing unit for male inmates with severe mental health issues. “Unfortunately, many of these inmates must be housed singly in a cell for their own safety, but each of the cells they occupy contains two bunks,” and wrote Dean, “This situation reduces the housing capacity of the unit and the overall jail system. As a housing unit designed for general population inmates,” the Main Jail has “basic design elements that create challenges in our ability to safely care for these inmates with unique special needs…it also contains no programming space to deliver needed programming to these inmates to assist in their treatment.”

San Francisco, Santa Clara and Alameda counties had outranked Ventura County and received their full requested amounts; Ventura County received only half of their request that was taken from the allocation for large counties. 

Ventura County will meet the mandatory minimum  match of about $6 million for the project but now more funding must be secured; if not according to Dean the grant will be declined. 

Taking funds declined by the larger counties is one option as is the county securing the balance through several channels including possibly a tax measure.

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