A bill by two state legislators from Santa Barbara has been signed by Gov. Jerry Brown to restore access to acute mental-health care at a Ventura County psychiatric hospital that was closed by the Thomas Fire.
Assembly Bill 417 was authored by Assembly member Monique Limón and co-authored by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.
The new law will allow outpatient behavioral health services to resume immediately while the hospital’s inpatient services remain suspended because of fire damage. Normally the licenses are connected and both services must be provided at a facility simultaneously.
The Thomas Fire was the largest fire in California history. Among the 1,063 structures destroyed and 280 damaged were two buildings at Aurora Vista del Mar, an acute-care psychiatric hospital in Ventura County.
Vista Del Mar was one of the largest private psychiatric hospitals in the region. Its closure resulted in the loss of 75 percent of all available psychiatric beds in the county and 100 percent of the adolescent beds on the Central Coast.
“Vista Del Mar is a critically important provider of both inpatient and outpatient mental health services in the region. … As one of the only providers of adolescent services, it is critical these services come back online as quickly as possible. I am happy the legislature was able to help expedite this process,” Limón said.
“The impact of restoring these services in our community will provide a life-saving resource for our friends and neighbors who are going through mental health challenges and seeking treatment in an area that can no longer provide this care in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire,” said Vista del Mar Hospital CEO Jenifer Nyhuis.
AB 417 passed off the Assembly and Senate Floors with bipartisan support and no opposition. It has an urgency clause that allowed it to go into effect immediately after being signed by the governor.