Important Case Settlement Will Benefit Thousands of Sacramento County Mental Health Clients

Sacramento, Calif. – January 23, 2012 – The settlement today of a suit filed against the County of Sacramento in 2010 ensures that some 5,000 adults with significant psychiatric disabilities will continue to receive outpatient services from their current providers.

Leslie Napper, named plaintiff in the suit (Napper et al. v. Sacramento County et al.), said "I am very relieved to know that with this settlement, the Regional Support Teams will remain in place. This means that I and thousands like me will continue to receive the unique and critical quality of care to maintain our wellness and recovery from mental illness."

The case was brought by Disability Rights California (DRC), Western Center on Law and Poverty (WCLP) and Cooley LLP in May 2010 after Sacramento County announced its plans to open new clinics staffed by County employees, to replace centers that have been providing these services successfully for 15 years.  The centers are run by nonprofit providers under competitively bid contracts. 

"In this tough economic climate, it is good to know that a vital cornerstone of adult mental health services will remain in place," said Sean Rashkis, DRC attorney.  "These services enable County residents to receive treatment while living independently in the community." 

In response to this suit, in July 2010 the court stopped the cuts in recognition that the abrupt reduction of services without an adequate plan for transition was likely to endanger the mental health of clients.  In violation of the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act, these actions would place clients at risk of hospitalization and inpatient placement.

Sacramento County appointed an expert on mental health practices, Nancy Callahan. Her report, issued on May 10, 2011, outlines the value of continuity of care in creating bonds of trust between health care providers and people with experience in managing their mental health conditions to avoid crises.  Read the Callahan report here.

"The Board of Supervisors should adopt its own expert's recommendations that the County expand needed outpatient services and cut back unnecessary inpatient services," said Robert Newman, WCLP Senior Counsel, adding that "those changes would be better for our clients and cheaper for the County." 

No later than December 31, 2012, the County of Sacramento agrees to:
- develop a plan for providing a continuum of care throughout its adult outpatient mental health system; and
- develop a plan to consolidate the two County outpatient clinics.

In addition, by this date the County must decide whether to revise its adult outpatient mental health system.  It must consider: modifying its intake system to allow existing providers to conduct intakes, increasing use of the Wellness and Recovery model, increasing use of peer staffing/volunteers, increasing collaboration between outpatient and inpatient mental health providers and developing  a 24-hour welcoming line or "warm line" staffed by individuals with lived experience.

"We are extremely pleased with the outcome here and proud to be a part of this important effort.  Keeping the Regional Support Teams in place is in the best interest of the patients and the community," said Maureen Alger, partner at Cooley LLP and head of the firm's pro bono practice.

The settlement agreement is being posted on the DRC website: www.disabilityrightsca.org.

Disability Rights California is the state protection and advocacy system, providing assistance to people with disabilities in implementing their rights.  The Western Center on Law and Poverty works for system-wide change to secure housing, health care and a strong safety net for low-income Californians.  Cooley LLP is providing pro bono services.

Contacts for Plaintiffs' Counsel:
Disability Rights California:  Melinda Bird, (323) 997-3235; Sean Rashkis, (916) 504-5800 ext. 5947.  Western Center on Law and Poverty:  Robert Newman, (213) 487-7211 ext. 2619.  Cooley LLP:  Ashley Kanigher, (415) 693-2003.

Related Contacts
Maureen Alger Partner, Palo Alto
Related Practices & Industries

Pro Bono