Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside. File photo

The Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to move forward with negotiations aimed at returning mental health services to Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside.

For the next several months, the county will work with Tri-City on plans for a 16-bed facility to treat psychiatric patients. If negotiations are successful, the county and Tri-City would co-invest in the facility, with each paying 50 percent of the costs.

As part of the agreement, Tri-City would own the facility, which is estimated to cost between $10 million and $14 million, according to the county.

Supervisors also approved $1 million to pay for staff and administrative costs associated with the talks.

About one year ago, Tri-City Medical Center shut down its behavioral health inpatient departments. Tri-City board members said the decision was tied to facility upgrade costs, low doctor reimbursement rates and a shortage of qualified staff.

The county Health and Human Services Department is expected to return to the board with a proposed agreement in January.

Supervisor Kristin Gaspar said the process to re-open a mental health facility in North County “has been nothing short of exhausting, but worth it.”

Gaspar also added that local leaders need to step up and support similar behavioral health facilities in their communities.

“Let’s not wait for people to fail,” she added. “We need preventative care.”

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said there is still “a long way to go in order to ensure we build an integrated, coordinated and effective regional behavioral health system in San Diego.”

Several medical professionals, including Tri-City CEO Steve Dietlin, urged the board to begin negotiations. Dietlin said the effort “provides opportunities to maintain healthcare.”

He said the Tri-City board voted in favor of the talks.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer also supports negotiating with Tri- City, a representative told the board. Speaking for the mayor, Sarah Jarman said that since Tri-City closed the behavioral health department, law enforcement officers have had longer commutes transferring people in mental health crisis to other facilities.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.