San Diego County officials remain silent on scathing SDSU report

Jorge Gomez examines the property of his brother Jose Angel Gomez-Camacho on February 13, 2020. His brother committed suicide while in self-isolation at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Mission Valley after testing positive for COVID-19 . (Zoë Meyers / new source)

More than three weeks have passed since San Diego State University released its scathing report on the county’s COVID-19 hotel program, and county officials are refusing to talk about it.

The report said San Diego County gave a unqualified company a $ 30 million contract to operate hotels, and that ill-trained employees forced COVID-19 patients to endure long delays for much-needed drugs and allowed gaps in services that could have led to overdoses and overdoses. suicides.

The Departmental Supervisory Council ordered a review of the program at the beginning of March. It was eight days after a news source investigation discovered poor care and supervision issues at Crowne Plaza in Mission Valley – the primary hotel used in the accommodation program.

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County officials agreed to pay the SDSU $ 140,000 for the evaluation and final report, which included nine recommendations to improve the program. But county officials won’t say whether any of these changes will be made.

County spokesman Michael Workman sent A declaration on the day the report was released, which indicated that officials would take the report into consideration, and added that it would be “our only comment or reaction to the report or your questions.” Workman has stopped responding to news source emails about SDSU report.

In addition, the entire supervisory board has remained silent.

A spokesperson for Supervisor Joel Anderson, who represents towns and communities in East County, said that “while this is an important topic, we have many more pressing issues.” A spokesperson for Supervisor Jim Desmond, who represents the North County, transferred responsibility to county staff, saying they should talk about it.

The other three supervisors – President Nathan Fletcher, Nora Vargas and Terra Lawson-Remer – did not respond to questions or requests for interviews.

The SDSU report praised county staff for their dedication, flexibility and sense of urgency, saying the program has likely prevented the spread of COVID-19 across the county. But the review also confirms news source reports over the past year and a half from guests as well as county and contract employees who have exposed negligence and wrongdoing in the accommodation program.

Hotel employees and guests told SDSU that the county contractor, Equus workforce solutions, poorly managed the program, and staff are not trained to work with many of those who are isolated – homeless people who may be struggling with mental illness or substance use disorders. As a result, drug use and suicide attempts have become rampant.

Hundreds of people will continue to depend on the services of these hotels until the county’s contract with Equus expires at the end of the year. Even so, there are no plans to discuss the report or the future of the program at a public meeting.

Marlon Saville said he was sent to the Crowne Plaza from a homeless shelter after complaining of symptoms of COVID-19 on August 18. He said he had a weakened immune system and his isolation was due to end on Saturday, and he fears the lack of case management services will force him to return to the same place where he thinks he caught the virus.

As for the staff, he said, “They are people so some of them don’t really care and it’s all a process. But then there are some that are really amazing.

The Crowne Plaza hotel in Mission Valley, which the county uses as an isolation center for people with symptoms of COVID-19 who have nowhere else to go, is featured on May 1, 2020. (Zoë Meyers / new source)

San Diego County has been using the Crowne Plaza and other hotels since March 2020 for people who have nowhere else to isolate themselves from the coronavirus. But the program has been plagued by problems from the start.

In an email news source got last spring, an employee told her colleagues that she “insisted, begged and begged for additional staff” to help provide adequate support.

Within a week, county officials amended an existing $ 13 million contract they had with Telecare Corp., which provided mental health services to San Diego residents through the justice system, to help those who are isolated as well. Despite this, a man committed suicide at the Crowne Plaza shortly after this email. The death was not discovered until five days later.

Two months later news source Discovered these problems and death by suicide, county officials hired Equus to take over the hotel accommodation program.

But the problems continued under the leadership of Equus.

SDSU researchers have revealed disagreement among county officials over the type of program needed. Some said the goal was simply to isolate people and reduce the spread in the community, which the program did. But others recognized that these hotels would become a refuge primarily serving vulnerable people with complex needs.

The SDSU seems to agree that more help is needed, as four of the nine recommendations listed in the report relate to case management, medical services or behavioral health. The report goes on to say that all similar programs in the future should focus on medical and behavioral health services.

One of the recommendations included 14 changes that could be made immediately to address concerns raised by staff and guests.

Jill Castellano contributed to this report.

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