hospital bed
A bed in a treatment facility. Photo via @KPBSnews X

The county Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved an effort to increase the number of beds for Medi-Cal eligible county residents needing mental health treatment.

Put forward by Supervisor Joel Anderson, the motion directs Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer to evaluate sub-acute and board-and-care facilities in each supervisor’s district.

Robbins-Meyer will then report back in 180 days on the number needed, along with strategies for putting them in place. According to information on the board meeting agenda, the report should also specify which beds may be reimbursed by the federal government.

Medi-Cal is California’s version of Medicaid, which provides health services to low-income people, including families, senior citizens and those with disabilities.

Before the vote, Anderson said officials know that adult residential and board-and-care facilities “provide vital support to vulnerable adults who require a level of 24-hour care and supervision, often due to behavioral or mental health conditions. They are a crucial part of our community’s housing landscape.”

However, Anderson said facility operational costs have only increased, while state reimbursement rates for Medi-Cal populations remain inadequate.

He added that the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of several facilities in the county over the last year.

As the regional homeless crisis continues, there’s a growing need for licensed board and care “within the continuum of permanent housing solutions,” Anderson said, adding that people moving out of sub-acute care and the mentally ill need help.

The review “will help us bridge the gap” in regional bed requirements, lower costs, and reduce the strain on hospitals, jails, homeless shelters and hospitals, Anderson said.

In a statement, board Vice Chair Terra Lawson-Remer offered support for Anderson’s proposal.

“Some of our residents rely on Medi-Cal for their mental health care, but right now there are not enough beds to meet the need, and county Behavioral Health is working to open more board-and-care beds,” Lawson-Remer said.

“We have pursued funding to help people who cannot afford private care options, done the analysis, and have a strategy in place now to grow bed capacity,” she added.

City News Service contributed to this article.