Ryan Fortner’s room at Hope House in west Santa Rosa has a linoleum floor, wooden dresser and nightstand, small white plastic laundry basket and a twin bed covered in a dark brown fleece blanket.
Though the room is modest by any standard, Fortner has found respite here from the streets and psychiatric facilities that he said are often frightening.
“I’m not as scared here,” said the 32-year-old Santa Rosa native, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Fortner, who has lived at Hope House since it opened about 13 months ago, has more than just a bed at the licensed board-and-care home. Staffed around the clock, seven days a week, the program helps Fortner and 11 other residents monitor their medication; counsels them on how to integrate themselves back into the community; and teaches them everything from personal hygiene to how to foster healthy relationships and avoid being exploited by others.
All for $75 a night per client — a fraction of what it costs the county to send Medi-Cal clients to an inpatient psychiatric facility, where beds cost $1,000 or more a night, said Tom Bieri, director of Community Support Network, a nonprofit that runs Hope House.
But Hope House may have to shut down, one of a host of nonprofit programs threatened by county budget cuts.
In an effort to save $1.85 million, the Health Services department has proposed cuts to a bevy of mental health and substance abuse programs operated by nonprofit “community partners,” including a $236,000 reduction to Community Support Network, which runs Hope House and five other supportive housing homes. If the cuts go through, Bieri said all six homes would have to be closed — a move that would affect 72 county behavioral health clients.
The loss of supportive housing like Hope House could lead to an increase in people with mental illness ending up in more expensive settings such as inpatient psychiatric facilities, hospital emergency rooms or jail, Bieri said.
“This is an extraordinary success,” Bieri said of Hope House. “You can’t save money by cutting contracts to cost-saving partners.”
Child Parent Institute is facing similar pressure, said Robin Bowen, executive director of the Santa Rosa nonprofit. The county Health Services department asked her organization to cut its budget by 35 percent, amounting to $338,000. Bowen said CPI was told to cut spending from both Medi-Cal funds and monies received from Proposition 63, the 2004 Mental Health Services Act that imposed a 1 percent income tax on people who make more than $1 million annually.
To reach the county’s target, CPI has proposed cutting $273,380 from its Medi-Cal contracts and $64,620 from Prop. 63, or MHSA funds.
The loss of those MHSA dollars would jeopardize a wide array of services, including perinatal mental health services for 21 to 28 of the 60 to 80 moms that participate annually in a program that helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety to help them develop healthy bonds with their children, Bowen said.
The loss of Medi-Cal dollars would dramatically reduce the number of abused and neglected children CPI helps with counseling and treatment to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress such as nightmares, intrusive thoughts, fears, depression, withdrawal and angry outbursts. With the cuts, the number of kids CPI is able to help would drop from 110 to 70, Bowen said.