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Mayor Mark Farrell and Health Director Barbara Garcia Annouce Expansion of City's Conservatorship Beds

Public-private partnership doubles in county capacity for residents dealing with serious mental health challenges

Mayor Mark Farrell and Health Director Barbara Garcia today announced the opening of the San Francisco Healing Center, a major expansion of services for residents experiencing serious mental illness in the city.

“The mental health problems on our streets are one of the biggest issues facing San Francisco,” said Mayor Farrell. “By more than doubling our conservatorship beds through our San Francisco Healing Center, we can provide real results for those with severe mental illness, along with our residents and businesses”

The new center, located at St. Mary’s Medical Center will, add 54 new conservatorship beds to the city’s system of mental health care, more than doubling the current number in the county.

These locked psychiatric beds serve a critical need for clients who are placed on conservatorship and are too ill to live independently but do not require acute hospital care. Expanding the supply of these beds in San Francisco will increase the county’s capacity to serve people with serious mental illness.

The clients who will be cared for include people who are gravely disabled due to mental illness or incompetent to stand trial. Currently, these clients can wait for placement in out-of-county facilities, acute care hospitals or jail.

“With this new program, we will be able to bring people home, and to provide treatment to San Franciscans in their own community,” said Barbara Garcia, San Francisco Health Director. “This is a first-of-its-kind effort that helps to address some of the pressing needs of our mental health care and hospital systems. This new program is based in a recovery model providing skills and support for those needing stabilizing mental health services.”

The San Francisco Healing Center will begin serving clients on March 12. San Francisco found a way to increase services by identifying space in a private hospital to meet the city’s needs and combining funding from public and private sources.

The program will be run by Crestwood Behavioral Health. Partners include the City and County of San Francisco, which is funding the program and is responsible for placements and care for the seriously mentally ill.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) is the lead agency, project coordinator and will provide program oversight. Dignity Health, the non-profit hospital system, is contributing to the program toward cost of space and renovations at St. Mary’s Hospital, where the program is located. UCSF Health contributed $1 million to the cost of renovation and programming. The San Francisco Healing Center will cost $5 million per year for DPH to operate 40 beds. An additional 14 beds are available for other providers to purchase for their clients.

“We are pleased to welcome the San Francisco Healing Center to St. Mary’s Medical Center,” said Lloyd Dean, President and CEO of Dignity Health. “Our partnership with the City and the San Francisco Hospital Council is an important step forward to address the long term issues with mental health. We must work together to support the health and well-being of all San Franciscans.”

Conservatorship is a form of civil commitment established by a judge upon finding that an individual is gravely disabled due to serious mental illness and cannot take care of his/her basic needs for food, clothing or shelter. Serious mental illnesses are treatable, and with proper treatment and management, people with these disorders can experience recovery.

“The San Francisco Healing Center shows a collective commitment to recovery and will help those with mental health issues return to productive roles in society,” said Patricia Blum, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Crestwood Behavioral Health. “This supportive process is at the core of everything we do at Crestwood, and we know from decades of experience that it works.

“This center will play a critical role in expanding the safety net of mental health care in San Francisco and enable patients to successfully transition between a hospital setting and their communities,” said Mark Laret, president and chief executive officer of UCSF Health. “We’re proud to support this center, as part of our ongoing partnership with Dignity Health, and look forward to the successes of the patients who will receive care in this facility. This collaboration is a model of health care working at its best to serve the people who need it most.”

The 54 new beds for conserved mentally ill clients at the San Francisco Healing Center will add to the existing 47 such beds at the Mental Health Rehabilitation Center (MHRC) located in the Behavioral Health Center on the campus of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Before the opening of the new beds, clients who needed to be conserved when the MHRC was full were either placed out of county, waited in the hospital or in jail. When clients are served out of county, it is a hardship on them and their loved ones. When clients are waiting in the hospital, it creates a log jam that is felt throughout the system – inpatient psychiatry beds remain full, causing a back-up at psychiatric emergency services. When clients are waiting in jail, they are in an environment that is not conducive to their recovery. With the new beds, the system will have more capacity, patient flow will improve and people will be treated in the most appropriate settings.

The San Francisco Healing Center will provide comprehensive programming for recovery and wellness. The program includes therapeutic care and peer support and a wide variety of evidence-based treatments, recreational activities and a structured daily schedule, designed to support and restore clients to enable them to live more independently in the community. The center will feature 24-hour nursing and psychiatric care, highly trained staff and peer providers, group and individual counseling, medical care, community linkages, family visits, recreational and wellness activities, individual recovery plans and discharge planning.