Grand jury reveals funding surplus for at-risk-youth program
PLACERVILLE – It’s uncommon but not unheard-of for an El Dorado County department to be chastised for being too frugal.
Friday, the county Mental Health Department got a slap on its wrist from the county’s 2005-06 grand jury for under-expending funds designated for a program designed to provide services to youth at risk of being placed in group homes.
While the children in need did get the services necessary, Grand Jury Foreman Doug Clough said an audit revealed a $173,244 surplus that should have been spent out of the $340,000 the program was alloted.
“The children of the county are being served,” Clough said. “I don’t believe we found any children in crises who weren’t (being served).” He added that at least one group could have used the funds but declined to go into further detail.
El Dorado County Board of Supervisors will hear the grand jury report when it meets Tuesday in Placerville. In a related item, the county will determine how $1.4 million will be spent annually that addresses mental health issues through the statewide Mental Health Services Act.
The county began the Wraparound Program, a state-created program, in 2001. By being cautious with the money granted, Mental Health has been able to serve between 20 and 25 children, Clough said. None of them were from South Lake Tahoe.
“Really good services are being provided,” said John Litwinovich, director of Human Services.
But too much caution and a lack of administrative procedure and policy led to an undesirable surplus, an independent audit of the program by the Harvey M. Rose firm found, according to the mid-year report.
The memorandum of understanding between the departments of Mental Health and Human Services calls for reinvesting program savings in children’s services, the report states. “These terms have not been defined and procedures have not been established for how funds such as these will be spent.”
The funds are currently in a reserve fund and can still be used, the report states.
Litwinovich said he appreciated the grand jury’s findings and already, he said, progress is being made to improve the system.
“We’ve been working to make some administrative changes to the Wraparound Program,” Litwinovich said.
Interim Mental Health Director Barry Wasserman said he saw the audit as affirmation that he and Litwinovich were on the right path. They began looking closely at the Wraparound Program last spring, he said, and had come to some of the same conclusions.
“I look upon the audit as a useful tool for us,” Wasserman said.
The grand jury recommendations suggest that the two county department formally delegate management of the Wraparound Program to the multi-departmental Interagency Governing Council, which should include, at a minimum, the directors of Mental Health, Human Services and Probation.
Clough said he plans to take the grand jury report and recommendations to the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday so the public can hear and comment on the findings.
Supervisor Norma Santiago, who represents the Tahoe District 5, said the board will hear the financing plans for Propostion 63, the Mental Health Services Act, in which the county will receive about $1.4 million annually from the voter-approved initiative.
Among five areas of funding the supervisors will decide includes a proposal to funnel a portion of the money to develop a Wraparound Program in South Lake Tahoe. Other South Shore programs being considered is a mental health court, aimed and minimizing incarcerations of the mentally ill, and the Latino Engagement Iniatitive, which would funnel money to help with depression among South Shore women.
– Tahoe Daily Tribune City Editor Jeff Munson contributed to this report.
What: El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting
When: Tuesday, 9 a.m., board meeting groom, 330 Fair Lane, Building A, Placerville
Agenda items: Mental health funding, transportation capital improvement plans
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