Kings County is moving forward with a mental health services contract for children with a Southern California provider that has a checkered history, in turn cutting ties with Fresno-based provider Kings View.
Kings View provided specialty mental health services to Kings County children and youth for decades, serving under Kings County’s Behavioral Health Department.
The company completed negotiations with director Dr. Lisa Lewis in April for an extension on their contract earlier this year, with the company inking the deal in April.
One month later, Kings County took the contract out to bid.
It received three responses, one from Kings View and another from eventual winner – San Diego-based Mental Health Systems, Inc.
Following presentations, county staff recommended to the Board of Supervisors that the county award the contract to Mental Health Systems, which drew an appeal from Kings View.
The Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday that Kings View’s protest lacked merit and the county will stay with Mental Health Systems.
Kings View concurrently provides the same services for adults, which were unaffected by the Tuesday contract switch.
Kings View chief executive officer Amanda Nugent Divine told the board that the organization is “extremely disappointed” with the appeal rejection.
“We’ve always valued our working relationship, as we mentioned before, with the county and will continue to always welcome feedback from both staff and this board,” Nugent Divine said.
Nugent Divine asked the board to allow for as much time as possible before initiating the contract with Mental Health Services in order to allow for enough time to effectively transition services over.
“As you know, continuity of service is paramount for the wellbeing of our children,” Nugent Divine said. “Our clients and our staff are the center of every decision we make at Kings View and we ask this board to do everything in their power to provide sufficient time to appropriately transition the services in question even if that involves overlap with MHS so that we can provide warm handoffs and support them in getting to know our children. Whatever that would look like, we want to make sure we set our children up for success and for the successful building of new relationships and therapeutic bonds.”
The board did not comment on Nugent Divine’s request for extra time to transition services over, but Supervisor Doug Verboon thanked Kings View for their work with the county.
“I know this is tough to make a call like this when you transfer from one leadership to another, but you are well respected in our community and we wish you all the best,” Verboon said. “But we have to do what we have to do, and it’s good to keep people invigorated and new blood in there. You are respected and we thank you for your service. We do wish for a smooth transition and hope things work out.”
Mental Health Systems’ checkered past was revealed in 2016 when former Chief Financial Officer Michael Hawley submitted a complaint to San Diego County claiming that the provider was billing its federal, state and county contracts between $1-4 million weekly of cost-reimbursable expenses that had not been incurred.
That led to an audit from San Diego County, which found the allegations involving billing the county were true.
According to the audit, Mental Health Systems had nearly $180,000 in expenses from county contracts that were past due over 31 days.