Monday, April 28, 2008. Grass Valley, CA: A sudden reversal by Nevada County administrators puts SPIRIT Peer Empowerment Center on a collision course. Supporters of the mental health peer counseling program see the decision as a potentially serious blow to the Center, and are fighting to restore promised funding.
Mental Health consumer advocates see this decision as part of a pattern of moves made by the county administration against consumer and stakeholder input in the planning of how to spend the million plus dollars a year coming to Nevada County from MHSA, Mental Health Service Act. Advocates for SPIRIT Center charge the County with the derailing and erosion of the community process required by MHSA. Voters approved MHSA (Prop. 63) in 2004. MHSA funding comes from a tax on individual income over one million dollars. The funding focus was to develop new programs to compliment the tradition mental health system.
SPIRIT Center opened four years ago, providing free mental health services offered by volunteers, who are trained peer counselors. SPIRIT Center now receives MHSA funding for operating expenses. Located on 5.6 acres in the Brunswick Basin, SPIRIT Center holds the "Option to Purchase" the commercial property. The "Option Agreement" expires on May 15, 2008. For a down-payment, SPIRIT Center has raised $50,000, and expected an additional $200,000 to $400,000 from MHSA funding.
On April 11, 2008, live on the KVMR, Behavioral Health Director Michael Director promised SPIRIT Center $100,000. All relevant MHSA Committees and the local Mental Health Advisory Board have publicly supported SPIRIT Center's effort to buy the Grass Valley property. SPIRIT Center proposes that Nevada County use MHSA funds to buy the SPIRIT Center's present location to establish a mental health resource center - 24hr. drop-in services, affordable housing, crisis respite care and a family resource center. But NCBH administrator, Heggarty declared on April 18, 2008 that the County did not choose to assist in the purchase of the SPIRIT property; that the MHSA funds were being redirected to buy new computers and a billing system and to remodel Behavioral Health properties.
"We think that there is more at stake than the SPIRIT Center. We see a blatant disregard of the hard work and community input in the planning process for how to use MHSA funding. The County may have the legal authority to take these monies, but it does not have the moral authority." Lily Marie SPIRIT Center founding member.
"We need to keep the vision of transforming the mental heath system alive." Guy Kerr, SPIRIT Center Program Coordinator. For more information, call 274-1431
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