Expansion of Hillmont Psychiatric Unit alleviates waits for patients in crisis

The unit has the capacity for 43-beds.

by Carol Leish

“The Hillmont Psychiatric Unit was built in 1995 and licensed for 43 beds,” according to Ashley Bautista, Public Information Officer for Ventura County. “It replaced a 28-bed unit that had been licensed since 1978.

“The unit has the capacity for 43-beds, and is currently staffed for 36 patients. The average length of stay is for 11 days. This increased to 14 days during the COVID-19 crisis. If Hillmont is full, patients are sent to Vista del Mar, here in Ventura, or out of the county to Northridge, Glendale, or Southern California Hospital in Van Nuys.
“With the $2 million proposal, part of Ventura County’s $2.5 billion budget, which was recently approved,” according to Bautista, “an additional 7 staffed beds will be bringing the total capacity of Hillmont up to 43 beds.

“Yes, we agree that the County needs more beds/chairs/placement sites, and we are looking at the full continuum from the Inpatient Psychiatric Unit to Crisis Stabilization Unit /Crisis Residential Treatment to residential treatment and board and care to incrementally enhance the eco-system at all levels,” according to Bautista. “Since the county has a need for it with its population of 840, 000, future expansion plans include: adding Crisis Stabilization Units (6 chairs), which will be coming this fall to St. John’s Hospital in Oxnard; Crisis Residential Treatment (16 beds), which will be coming to Santa Paula this fall; and, a Locked Mental Health Rehabilitation Facility (80-120 beds), which we are looking to bring to Ventura County in the near future.”

“Concerning the Advisory panel urging an option for longer hospitalizations of those who are severely mentally ill in Ventura County,” according to Bautista, “I’ll refer to us (Ventura County), adopting the provisions of Welfare and Institutions Code #270.10 et seq. (Article 4.7 of Chapter 2 of the Lanterman-Petris-Short [LPS] Act) (hereinafter WIC & 5270) which discusses the possible provision for people requiring acute psychiatric treatment longer than that currently afforded under the Welfare and Institutions Code & 5250, in order to avoid the costly and unnecessary filings of Temporary Conservatorship petitions. Thus, if adopted, a WIC & 5270 hold would allow an individual with serious mental illness to be held for up to an additional 30 days. But, if the person in question is stabilized, the hospital can discharge that person earlier without approval from the court or a conservator.

“The above recommendations are supported by both Ventura County Behavioral Heath and Ventura County Medica Center. When it is determined that an individual is gravely disabled and has not stabilized in 17 days, the hospital either discharges and subsequently re-admits (if they missed the window to file for temporary conservatorship), or files for temporary conservatorship which is more restrictive than an additional 30 days. Rights are protected by affording the individual a probable cause hearing.”

Dr. Fankhauser, CEO of both Ventura County Medical Center & Santa Paula Hospital, states: “We are committed to providing high quality, compassionate care to this population (those with mental illness), here in Ventura County.”

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