The City of Bakersfield’s Ad Hoc Homelessness Committee discussed Tuesday the possibility of establishing an inpatient drug rehabilitation center at Kern Medical to help low-income residents.
“It’s just something that’s definitely missing and we don’t have anywhere in our community now,” said Natalee Garrett, vice president of strategic development at Kern Medical.
Plans for the new facility discussed at the meeting included a 20-24 bed drug rehabilitation center, a 28-bed psychiatric emergency unit and a 16-bed psychiatric inpatient unit. Garrett said the building could be constructed on the Kern Medical campus by repurposing an existing structure. The new facility would also reduce pressure on the hospital’s emergency department.
Patients often need the attention of Kern Medical’s emergency department when receiving treatment at the Mary K. Shell Mental Health Center on the Kern Medical campus, Garrett said, noting that department resources have been stretched. strained by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said the need for mental health services continues to grow and the proposed center would reduce stress on available resources at Kern Medical, while providing patients with a stable place to detox.
Garrett added that there have been up to 18 psychiatric detainees awaiting emergency medical treatment due to backups at the mental health facility.
“It’s just unsustainable in the long run,” Garrett noted. “We badly need additional space and additional support for these services.”
Anthony Valdez, assistant city manager, said the city may seek money from the state to pay for construction and operating costs.
The proposal was only on the agenda for discussion at this stage, as a non-action item. However, Councilman Ken Weir, chairman of the committee, as well as City Council members Eric Arias and Patty Gray, showed their support for the idea on Tuesday.
“It’s a project we’ve all kind of been waiting for – a big home run,” Weir said. “It looks like it’s going to have a huge, huge, positive effect on what we’re trying to do and accomplish.”
City council members of the ad hoc committee on homelessness also discussed a draft ordinance that would aim to reduce the number of abandoned shopping carts in the city.
“That’s a lot of staff time spent on abandoned cart recovery, so they would be spending their time on other more productive things,” City Manager Christian Clegg said.
City attorney Virginia Gennaro said Bakersfield has historically relied on filing complaints in order to find abandoned shopping carts. She noted that current state law already prohibits taking shopping carts into a business, provided an owner follows certain guidelines.
A proposed city ordinance would change the guidelines a homeowner must follow, Gennaro said.
Many cities have a containment policy or recovery policy regarding shopping cart abandonment, Gennaro noted in a presentation to the committee. A containment policy includes steps a property owner must follow to ensure baskets remain on a property; recovery policies are plans owners must have to recover the cart.
The project discussed on Tuesday would create a containment policy. Gennaro noted that this type of plan would require landlords to enforce the rules, as opposed to a tenant.
At a future meeting, council members should consider one of three options: maintain the status quo on the carts; amend municipal ordinances to add a containment or recovery policy, or both; or make a deal with a service that specializes in cart recovery, Gennaro said.
Paul Saldaña, the city’s economic, community and development director, said the cost to homeowners of such an ordinance — depending on which option the city council decides to pursue — could range from $8,000 to $10,000. for a business the size of a pharmacy; $10,000 to $18,000 for a grocery store; and $20,000 to $25,000 for a larger department store. Councilor Patty Gray asked about the potential for grants to reduce costs for business owners who would be affected.
A motion was passed unanimously to accept the staff recommendation. Weir has requested a presentation on this issue at a city council meeting next month.
You can reach Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You can also follow her at @idesai98 on Twitter.