A recreation room in Scripps Mercy Hospital’s inpatient care unit / Photo by Megan Wood
A recreation room in Scripps Mercy Hospital’s inpatient care unit / Photo by Megan Wood

Waits for psychiatric patients looking for long-term care in San Diego County have been surging, wreaking havoc on the entire mental health care system.

There are essentially three stages medical care for patients in psychiatric distress: the emergency room, an inpatient hospital bed where patients are stabilized and post-hospital care where patients receive more specialized treatment.

On top of experiencing long delays in local emergency rooms, Lisa Halverstadt found that patients are also being forced to wait longer and longer to enter the third phase of treatment once they no longer need hospital care..

New data shows adult behavioral health patients with Medi-Cal insurance collectively spent more than 13,200 days waiting in hospital beds regionwide after doctors decided they were ready to be discharged for long-term care during an 11-month period.

That’s up 27 percent from waits reported over a 12-month period just two years ago.

Scripps Health reports patients have spent as long as 120 days at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest as they awaited an opening in one of the county’s long-term care facilities. Meanwhile, the county’s health and human services agency reports that patients waited an average of 61 days last year.

Council OKs Inclusionary Housing Measure

The San Diego City Council approved an update to the city’s inclusionary housing policy, but because Democratic Councilwoman Vivian Moreno voted against the policy, the measure might not have enough support to survive a potential veto from Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Councilman Scott Sherman urged Faulconer to veto the measure shortly after the Council approved it. Councilman Chris Ward, meanwhile, voted for the plan but said in a statement after the vote that he didn’t think it went far enough.

Here’s how Andrew Keatts and Lisa Halverstadt described the plan, pushed by Council President Georgette Gómez, last week: 

Gómez’s proposal would increase the fee developers can pay to avoid building low-income units as part of their projects, from the current $12 per square foot to $22, over the course of three years. Developers could otherwise choose to reserve 10 percent of the units in their project to people making under 50 percent of San Diego’s median income, or about $53,000, under Gómez’s proposal, rather than the city’s existing requirement that the units be reserved for people making up to 65 percent of the median income.

The questions now: Will Faulconer veto the new law? And if he does, can the Council change it enough to win him, or Moreno, over? Gomez needs six total votes to override a veto. It’s one of the reasons Democrats were so thrilled to win six seats on the City Council.

Builders mounted fierce opposition to the proposal, pleading for concessions after months of talks. And Moreno was sympathetic, particularly around the income limits the affordable housing units would have to serve.

“Placing economically infeasible regulations within the City’s inclusionary housing ordinance on the affordable housing developers who are on the ground building the units was not something I could support,” she said in a written statement after the vote.

If she stays with them, builders now have more leverage to get changes but only if Faulconer is willing to veto.

Sweetwater Students Are Back, Beiser Is Not

San Diego Unified Trustee Kevin Beiser still has not returned to his teaching position in the Sweetwater Union High School District after four men accused him of sexual assault and sexual harassment in March.

Beiser remains on paid leave, but Andrew Keatts reports the former Castle Park Middle School teacher is no longer assigned to any school campus. A long-term substitute took his place for the remainder of the last school year following a story from Voice of San Diego detailing the allegations.

The district launched its own investigation into the accusations against Beiser last month. None includes inappropriate behavior with students or minors.

SD Schools Superintendent Gets Extension

San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Beiser was at the school board Tuesday evening, though. And his vote mattered. The board voted to extend Superintendent Cindy Marten’s contract through the 2022-2023 school year. They approved the extension 3-1 with Richard Barrera, John Lee Evans, and Beiser in support. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne voted against the contract and Mike McQuary was absent.

The board also approved a 3.7 percent across-the-board pay increase for teachers.

The trustees also approved a resolution Tuesday urging the City Council to advance a measure that would make it easier to remove school board members, the Union-Tribune reports.

Get Ready for Another Packed Ballot

Wednesday is going to be a big day in deciding just how massive the ballots facing San Diego voters will be in 2020.

A City Council’s Rules Committee will discuss 17 different measures vying for the ballot.

  • District-only school board elections. One measure would make the the San Diego Unified School District elect its trustees just as the city elects its Council members, with only voters in the subdistrict a trustee represents having a say. District reformers have tried and failed to put this change on the ballot before, but Assemblywoman Shirley Weber has proposed state legislation that would make the change if the city doesn’t do it itself.
  • Removal of San Diego Unified trustees. This measure would make it easier to remove trustees convicted of felonies or other serious issues, much as a 2016 measure made it easier to remove elected city officials.
  • Police oversight reform. There are two measures that would make changes to the city board that oversees the San Diego Police Department. One would make the modest change of giving the board its own legal counsel, while the other would make sweeping changes that would create a new board with power to conduct independent investigations, with subpoena power.
  • Affordable housing bond. This measure would raise taxes to pay back a $900 million bond to build roughly 7,500 homes reserved for low-income residents. The measure has for years been a priority of affordable housing advocates, who in 2018 agree to stand down until 2020.
  • Enshrining planning groups. The chair of the Community Planners Committee, the overarching group for the city’s community planning groups, would write into the city charter that every community is represented by a community planning group.
  • Auditor reforms: There are two proposed measures that would make changes to the city auditor, an independent body tasked with investigating city operations and recommending improvements. One would put the Council’s audit committee in charge of finding a new auditor at the end of its term; the other, proposed by Councilman Scott Sherman, is an open-ended discussion item. It considers everything from letting the city’s personnel department search for a new auditor, to turning it into an elected position.

Photographing the Unexpected Face of Cannabis

In the latest Culture Report, Julia Dixon Evans tells the story of a Colorado-based photographer and journalist who uses art to show how kids impacted by untreatable diseases see progress or greater quality of life with medicinal cannabis.

Nichole Montanez’s photographs will be showcased at Barrio Logan’s La Bodega gallery this Saturday. “If we show people these kids, how could they say no to that?” Said Montanez, who hopes her work will reframe public perception of cannabis.

Plus: Ballet in art museums, art in alleyways and more news for the culture crowd.

In Other News

  • Three out of four defendants seeking treatment for mental illness since a law passed last year have been denied. (Union-Tribune)
  • The American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a court filing in San Diego’s federal court that more than 900 children have been separated from their families at the border since June 2018, when a local judge ordered an end to the practice. (Associated Press)
  • Alfred Olango’s wife testified this week in trial for the civil lawsuit against El Cajon, after an El Cajon Police Department officer shot and killed Olango, who was unarmed and whose sister called to report he was having a mental health episode. (Courthouse News)


Tuesday’s story on a San Ysidro School District teacher who racked up misconduct complaints at multiple schools incorrectly referred to teacher Jimmy Delgado’s transfer to a district office role as a promotion. He is still classified as a teacher. The San Ysidro School District declined to provide information about his role prior to publication despite multiple inquiries. 

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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