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Mendocino County is Crazier and Fatter Than the Rest of California!

by MARK SCARAMELLA

How nuts are we? Plenty.

Fat, too.

According to page 33 of the 2004 Mendocino County Community Health Status Report — an expensively produced, grant-funded 40-page booklet — we’re mucho nutso and fatso grando.

The bad news, or confirmation of long-held suspicions, is found on page 33 of the report where we’re informed that the US Surgeon General, speaking in 1999, declared that an “estimated 20% of all Americans will experience a diagnosable serious mental illness sometime in their life.”

In Mendocino County, our hard-hitting helping professionals tell us, that translates as 20% of our nearly 90,000 citizens.

At any one time, then, considered as a statistical probability, about 18,000 Mendolanders can be said to be officially wacko.

That’s one nut among every five of us. Crazy *and* fat, it seems.

61% of Mendolanders are overweight, compared to 54% statewide, and 24% of Mendolanders — one in four — are obese, a statistic which includes Mendocino County’s kids who are as fat as its adults and getting heftier by the year.

Of our five Supervisors then, at least one is 5150 at any given time. (As it happens, one sitting supervisor is on heavy psychotropic drugs but still goes on public crying jags at supervisors’ meetings. Another supervisor is an alcoholic. Another a Republican, an incurable mass delusion that considers the current occupant of the White House a plausible person for the task. And the other two suffer from infantile fixation disorder, which is rampant in Mendocino County; and characterized by persistent interest in the music of one’s youth into late middle-age.

There are some 30 department heads at work in Mendocino County government; six of them, statistically, are crazy. (The *visibly* deranged include the County Counsel and his staff and include almost all the supervisory personnel at Mental Health, a twitchingly paranoid group of people who think everyone is out to get them. In fact, only the supervisors want to get them.)

From July 2002 to June 2003 Mendocino’s well-staffed Mental Health Department “and its contract providers” served 2,490 clients, up 16% from the previous year. 52% of these were women. 35% were depressed, 21% were schizophrenic, 19% were bipolar, and 11% suffered anxiety. The report plays up Mental Health’s 24-7 Crisis Center (which is now sorta open 17-7 days and early evenings only. The crucial hours of midnight to seven a.m. nobody answers the phone.) The Crisis Center “saw 331 individuals in crisis” who were not hospitalized but who stayed at the Crisis center “for up to 23 hours to *resolve their issues*.”

Twenty-three whole hours to resolve their issues! Where do I sign up? I’m not *clinically* depressed, schizo, bipolar or anxious, but I’d sure like to resolve my issues in 23 hours or less. (As long as the Mental Health staffers keep their distance.) But how exactly is “issue” defined?

Nothing in the report is defined with any precision, which isn’t surprising given the rather extreme verbal deficiencies of the authors, the Mental Health Department of Mendodcino County. And fatuity, though epidemic, is not treatable.

Mental Health provided “psychotropic medication management” to 1,092 adults during the period cited, managing at least some “issues” chemically, it seems.

But what about the kids? How were their “issues” resolved?

“Child psychiatric services were made available to 94 children in 2003 through the telepsychiatry contract operated out of offices in Ukiah, Willits and Fort Bragg.”

What is telepsychiatry? A phone call from a psychiatrist in Bombay?

“Children in Mendocino County have access to mental health services through the schools, various non-profit organizations, private practitioners throughout the community, and the Mendocino County Mental Health Department.”

In other words, crazy kids are going to get a lot crazier.

Not that Mendocino County lacks mental health professionals. Hell, all the hippies had to go somewhere when they came down out of the hills in ’71.

Mendocino County has 115 licensed Marriage and Family Counselors (second only to nurses in the list of licensed non-physician health professionals) and 61 licensed social workers. The county’s divorce rate runs about 60%, perhaps higher among marriage and family counselors.

There are 25 licensed acupuncturists and 35 licensed chiropractors to unkink the kinks the shrinks are unable to medicate or blather to non-“issue.”

Seventy-six children received “services” in 2003 as part of their Individualized Education Plan, “which called for mental health services in order to ensure success in school.” 80% of these were eligible for MediCal. (MediCal apparently pays for the pharmaceutical speed known as Ritalin, too. Small boys are cranked to the max for their alleged hyperactivity, childhood now being generally frowned upon.) “The remaining students, by law, received these services at no cost to the family.” (This is the usual disclaimer from local bureaucrats implying that despite their cush salaries they’re also a little more charitable than most of the rest of us. Mendolib not only wants to be paid well for making crazy people crazier, it wants to be loved!)

The Community Health Status Report says that an almost unbelievable 26% of County Jail inmates are receiving psychotropic medications — 714 inmates got psychiatric drugs in 2003. This statistic is suspicious, though. It may just be a reflection of how many of the County’s nuts are treated by the cops at the jail after they’ve done a public wig-out; the more active psychos are now the responsibility of law enforcement.

Psychotropic medications also may be prescribed to keep certain inmates sedated, not because they’ve tossed their bonnet. Nevertheless, according to Mental Health’s own stats more than twice as many people get “psychiatric services” in jail than at the crisis center.

Still, given that upwards of 20% of the population is starkers, there a lot more nuts than the pecans getting treatment at the jail or County Mental Health.

The Mental Health Department summary concludes with this footnote: “An estimated number of residents in Mendocino County not receiving needed services was approximately 2,500.”

Most of the Mental Health services provided by the Mental Health Department and their contract providers were paid for by taxpayers via MediCal and Medicare; the uninsured were covered out of general public funds. Only 7% of Mental Health’s psychiatric services were paid for by private insurers.

The Department of Mental Health gets a lot of taxpayer money to provide “treatment,” but even though the department is (still) more than adequately staffed at well over 100 people as of last year, the seriously crazy people are handled by the cops and “contract providers.”

After this year’s round of budget cuts in Mental Health, there will be fewer than the 140 people employed at Mental Health’s peak staffing because it’s obvious that their workload does not warrant that many people getting paid to do mental health work that is now done by police agencies and private contractors. Mental Health closed the Psychiatric Health Facility (the PHF or “puff” Unit) years ago and has already cut the 24-hour crisis center back to part-time, creating a virtual shit storm of protest from Mental Health client advocates, the Mental Health Advisory Board and the Department itself. Expect a virtual chorus of feral howls when these latest cuts are made.

Medicare pays far more of the cost of hospitalization in Mendocino County than any other funding source (46%). Private insurance (mostly tax-funded via government employee health insurance plans, but which also includes auto insurance and workers comp) pays only 26%, and MediCal pays only 21%. Almost a quarter of Mendolanders are uninsured, most of whom are illegal immigrant vineyard workers, poor, and/or employed by employers who do not provide health insurance.

There are seven medical clinics in Mendocino County — Ukiah, Willits, Fort Bragg, Gualala, Potter Valley, Anderson Valley, and Laytonville. Of these only Laytonville and Gualala offer acupuncture services, Laytonville logged 2200 acupuncture treatments in 2002, and Gualala more than 1000. There’s no accounting for exactly which medical conditions were treated by acupuncture, but whatever it was it no doubt resolved some issues.

Although Mendocino County is probably America’s number one consumer of medicinal marijuana, the Mendocino Community Health Status Report mysteriously ignores the devil weed’s alleged healing properties.

Other depressing statistics: Mendo is ranked sixth in the state in the rate of death from cancer, which the report implies is mostly related to Mendo’s higher than average numbers of smokers. (34% of Mendolanders smoke every day, compared to a statewide rate of 28%.) Little mention is made of pesticide use or industrial chemicals as contributing factors to the high cancer rate.

As Mendolanders age, they fall down a lot. 44% (1100) of non-fatal hospitalized injuries in Mendocino County were the result of falls, and 63% of the 1100 fallers were people 65 years of age and older.

Mendocino County, according to our home grown experts, is one of the fattest, craziest counties in the state. And given student test scores, we might soon be the dumbest, too.

MARK SCARAMELLA is the managing editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser. He can be reached at: themaj@pacific.net

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MARK SCARAMELLA is the Managing Editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser in Mendocino County, California. (www.theava.com). He can be reached at themaj@pacific.net.

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