Roundtable: Mental Illness, Salton Sea And Complaints Over New Flight Path
Welcome. Joining me at the KPBS roundtable today is our health reporter Kenny Goldberg. Good to see you back. Tony period from the Los Angeles times and reporter Steve Walsh of KPBS news. Good to see while. The cost associated with sear mental illness in the US is estimated to be more than $300 billion per year. But the relatively few facilities able to offer long-term care for mentally ill patients is overwhelming in San Diego County. These are among the facts reported in a three-part series on mental illness airing this week on KPBS. It was a great series can a, let's start with the scope of this problem how many people suffer from this illness? The group says about one out of every 17 Americans has a Seville mental illness. If you do the numbers in San Diego County that means about 180 The group says about one out of every 17 Americans has a Seville mental illness. If you do the numbers in San Diego County that means about 180,000 people have a severe mental illness like schizophrenia or borderline personality disorders or severe depression. So a lot of people. Let's expand on that definition what do you mean by severe mental illnesses as opposed to someone was functioning with depression or who may be bipolar to a degree. Severe mental illness is like a psychotic until illness. At the spectrum of mental illness. Severe is at the far end. So like schizophrenia is someone who has delusions or hears voices. Maybe has episodes that there are crises in their lives. So you visited these Mercy emergency rooms and we have a bite hear from Dr. Renate and how she explains what's going on. We have 55 people in our emergency department right now. IC 2 people on a psychiatric 5150 hold. We have somebody here with anxiety, and if I scroll down you'll see people who are suicidal, several of those. Well, that is a pretty dramatic bite their. Many people suffering some psychotic episodes end up in the ER. But your story shows that is not the right place for them. No, it is not. Emergency room people's can stabilize somebody who is in crisis with a mental illness, but, it is not the ideal place somebody who is suffering from an episode of mental illness. Especially acute, because it such a chaotic environment it's very noisy with a lot of people rushing around. Is not conducive to mental health in their at all. So what we need is to put these people into a long-term care facility, how many do we have and how many do we need? We have total in the county, I just had capacity, we have about 200 long-term care beds. There are other facilities like board and care homes for people with severe illness, but they need to be a bit more high functioning to stay in one of those places. Because it's usually not locked. Some of them if they are license, offer medication. But there is no other treatment. The group sessions, therapy or say are anything like that. Tony, Libby second that comment. It does seem that as I read your excellent work, once again San Diego County has a social problem. A health problem that needs surgery. What we have are Band-Aids. Is that cutting to the chase too much? We just flopped on dealing with a societal issue. I do not think that we flopped, but it has not on the attention it deserves. It is not only in San Diego, this is statewide. There is a real problem with the number of people with mental illness, we just don't have the resources to take care of them, despite the fact that 10 years ago we passed proposition 63, the millionaires tax. This gives special money to mental health services. I'll get into that in part 3. At this money, cannot be used to supplement existing services. It needs to go to new programs and programs to prevent mental illness. To intervene early in people with mental illness. It is a matter of resource and priorities. The county, to its credit, is trying to do what it can. Who is on the front line here? It seems like police officers are dealing with this issue day in and day out. How does it impact them and is there open site for them? As you were saying before the show started, the calls to service in Sandy go please have skyrocketed in the past year from mental illness calls. They have part teams that go out with the police officers were there is an actual mental police officer who takes a ride along with the officer in their car and they go to mental health calls and try to defuse the situation. Try to get somebody help and treatment. So the police department is reaching out to but, it's a department that has all parts of society. And we are getting more patients than before. Because of the affordable care act. Well that is one theory. We have millions of people in California who now have insurance thanks to Medi-Cal. There accessing the healthcare system. Many of them don't know how to get a doctor. How to get care. So the first thing they do is shop into the emergency room work to those with severe mental illness get better with treatment? They do. If they get proper treatment and are diligent about it. When I visited the long term care facility in Alpine, the director said even the severely impaired to improve. Not necessarily to the point where they can function independently and take care of themselves, but they do get better. By Alpine? Are we trying to keep these people as far away from their families as possible? I don't know. Is a private facility that the County contracts with it happens to be there and it happens to be very calm and relaxed setting as to historically where they chose it, I don't know does this mean Kenny that people who are suicidal might just end up back on the streets after visiting the ER? Certainly. Because the ER is only one part of it. And then they need to be discharged someplace. Hopefully to a place that can give them more acute care. But the acute care hospitals are pretty full. If somebody needs long-term care they have a deep psychiatric illness that's just not manageable at the present time. So there is, they are almost at capacity in every system. That is one of the issues. You write about early intervention and the kickstart program. That is an interesting program it's funded by the proposition 63 many primarily and it seeks to intervene in kids ages 10 to 25 that have had some sign of psychotic illness. They've experienced hallucination or illness before becomes full-blown. This problem has had some success in an 18 month period the children in reducing the symptoms. It actually prevents them from getting a full-blown mental illness. What a county official saying? Is there help on the way more money or staff that we can apply here? Well the County has a lot of unspent proposition 63 many. More than $100 million. That sounds like a whole bunch where we using it? Because again that money needs to go to specific programs. It cannot supplement existing programs or fill budget holes. Is a very rigorous process to get programs approved for this money. In the time that we have left, I want to throw this up. We are having someone of a national debate on severe mental illness because of this mass shootings that we've had so many of. About one a day. Is getting a bit remarkable. I'm hesitant to say that most people with severe mental illness are not violent people. Studies have shown that. But what about this national debate? Can we get help for folks and how do you predict human behavior it's such a conundrum this problem facing society. Right, you cannot predict human behavior but this speaks to an overall problem that we are just not taking care of people with severe mental illness. It should not get to this point. Where somebody is so disturbed that they feel their only option is to kill other people. And in a society where we have access to guns, high-powered guns. Or they do something that puts them near police officers with guns. And then you have an officer involved shooting with controversy. This one going on right now. Suicide by cop is the phrase. Or just an incident that occurs by things because things were just right with an individual and now you need to decide whether the police officer was in the) the wrong. It also speaks to this. In every mental health piece that I do, I talk about stigma. It still persistent and it's within families who have a person who suffers from a mental illness. There's just a real barrier and a real prejudice against getting care against somebody who has a mental illness. Well we will leave you with one last word from the segment and I encourage you to go to our website and look at this. List shift gears -- let's shift gears. There is a lake that's drying up that's going to create a public health catastrophe unless something is done to preserve the Salton Sea . Tony, tell us first of all why shrinking. In 2017 it's really going to start shrinking. It's 17 miles wide straddling the Imperial canny line. In 2003 the state twisted the arms of the farmers out in in. Lvalue to sell a lot of water to the Sandy go County water Authority. Plus water being used on the crops, less run out, the sea starts to shrink even more than it has been. That's the only source of water out there, unless we get some rain. There is no fresh water source that goes into that see. So to keep it from shrinking dramatically for the first 15 years of that 45 year deal, the interior irrigation district is required to put Sultan -- to put Colorado will never water into the sea. But after 2017 that requirement goes away. And suddenly shrinkage which has been pace will be a pace the people at the Institute and environ group and Oakland say we're looking at a catastrophe. We are falling off the edge of the table. The sea will have shrunk and that playa that was underwater will soon be exposed to the air and the dust storms which are already enormous out there. It will get worse. Dust storms with things in that like pesticides, suddenly this playa is exposed the wind comes along and the asthma rates in the emergency rooms rise particularly for children. The Imperial Valley going to see a lot. Is already gone up and it's going to go way it. Indeed, I talked to the management hired by the state to take over Salton Sea planning and he said it's an environmental catastrophe. It's an environmental invalid out there. He says that the dust storms today are like a Midwestern snowstorm except its particles and is going to get worst. Let's talk about 10 years ago the state promised to do something about it. What were the plans and what has been done? In 2003 the farmers did not want to sell their water to Sandy go County water Authority. But to force them to do a couple things the federal government sue them. The state government also said in terms of the Salton Sea , you put some of that Colorado River water into the sea and stabilize it for the first 15, and we can take it from there. Well here we are 15 years later and the state has not taken that there. Because this be candid about it, it doesn't have the political push of San Francisco or the Delta, even the Central Valley. It just doesn't have it. Even owns like which is a similar problem in the foothills of the Sierra's. It's does not get the press. I thought environmental groups make this one of the causes? They should. But there is only so much energy to go around. They will tell you that the Delta is the big thing that there concerned about. This Sacramento San Joaquin Delta. Also the San Francisco Bay, there just isn't enough energy around it and is also a long way from San Diego, Los Angeles, and a long way from Northern California. Is a man-made problem on a man-made lake and we're in the middle of a drought. Water is scarce. Is there anything that can be done short of giving or putting more water in there, can you rehab any of this land? A bit. That is what Bruce Wilcox recently hired as the Salton Sea *. -- They've got a little bit of money. The state cooked up a plan a few years ago for $9 billion to save the sea. That was dead on arrival at the state legislator. The Imperial district kick Dep another plan with three half-billion that similarly dead. But what is alive is a much smaller program. There is about a 420 acre site on the southeastern part of the Salton Sea that they're going to re-flood with Alamo River water to stop the playa from eating out. That's 420 acres out of thousands of acres at the moment. Let alone after 2017. The hope is that they will do this project, it will work, and it will wake people up that we can do something. We cannot save the sea but we can stabilize it. Is there any way to reclaim that land? 100 years ago this was all open land. It was, you're right, and it was the Sultanate and then the great floods caused by the Colorado jumpy get banks because of irrigation methods that did not work. But returning it to what it was, I think is tough. Also meeting exposed to the air, the playa, that white dust. With all the health townsite and economic down sites, the Pacific Institute people say that fixing or stabilizing the sea is very expensive. Not doing it, even more so in terms of employment, health, you name it. So you've got yourself a choice. Painting now, or opinion not more later work they estimate 30 billion. That's what would be lost. Where is Gov. Brown on this? He came to San Diego during the water bond last year. I asked him while I was wearing my Salton Sea hat, I said what you think about the Salton Sea? He told me we would deal with that later. It is now later and the people from Imperial irrigation District went to the state water board about six months ago and said you need to do something. What they would like the board to condition the continuing sale of water to San Diego, on fixing the sea. The board may or may not have that authority little on the political moxie. They would have a couple of weeks ago and said you've done nothing. Nothing. What is the federal role if any? Good question. They will name their own czar, the Bureau of reclamation who runs the Colorado River and disperses the water. So far they have not done a lot. Though they have had money for this 420 acre projects called the Redhill be on the southeastern corner. So they are involved to see if this can work. Can we re-flood areas? The thought is, Roos Wilcox -- Bruce Wilcox let's do smaller projects whenever gunna make the see what it once was when it was the place the Hollywood crowd. In the 1950s when so not sure what out there to play and drink and go to various places that are now all bankrupt. We will never make it back, but let's see if we can stabilize it and save some of it so it cannot get any worse after 2017. When they are no longer putting fresh water from the Colorado River into the seat. All right will leave it there about will look for more reporting. Maybe the El Niño will help. The location of Lindbergh Field and point Loma has been a sour point especially those living underneath the flightpath. It surprising that a proposal by the FAA to tighten the takeoff pattern putting planes over neighborhoods as they bank back to the East, has riled up point Loma residence. We started with the hearing how many people showed up? It was certainly over 300 I would say 500 or more. They packed it in over at liberty Station. A lot of residents are quite upset by this proposal by the FAA. It's something that's going on around the country. Are looking at Metro areas all over the country called the next Gen plan. Tightening up the airspace around several metropolitan areas using satellite, tracking for planes. In some areas of the country this has received a lot of consternation and in other areas like Houston they don't seem to have problems with it. In fact there weren't a lot of problems in San Diego up until recently. Over the last couple of weeks residents got excited about this. The very concerned and some are saying they think this has already changed and that they are seeing more planes now. Point Loma is one of the tip of the runway. Hundreds of planes a date take off. And we should point out that because of our prevailing winds. 97% of the time it says that the planes take off into the wind prevailing off the oceans of a going over that neighborhood. Never going to make a tighter turn. Explained to our listeners exactly what were talking about. They want swing so whatever the ocean? Right as they can tighten up this airspace. They still go out over ocean beach and most planes traveling east bank out over the ocean and swing around, right now past point Loma, and then come back and head east. Under this proposal they would be able to bank more tightly. Come over the tip of point Loma and then in the process this claim -- planes would be closer. And residents are definitely concerned. Though some concerns seem to be whether or not planes are starting to go into the different neighborhoods of a have not seen planes before. Why are we doing this? Is it to save gas and therefore save money? It does indeed. It looks like this plan is supposed to save 684,000 nautical miles and about that much fuel as well as carbon emissions being cut by 31,000 tons. Of course this is nationwide. They haven't done studies to show just what the breakdown is for each airport. This is Kenny, what alternatives have they considered? Right now they're considering all the alternatives. This is a proposed plan. The public comment period for this proposed plan passed on Thursday. So now they're looking at all of these different plans including the option of no change. 's attorney, the FAA is a federal agency. Can our robust Congressional delegation do anything about this? Well, it is an FAA a proposal and I'm sure they can chime in to write letters. In Washington. Last week this meeting was not an FAA meeting at all it was called by the airport and the ask the FAA to come. They seemed to be somewhat responsive to this. I thought they got their rear ends roasted for not being as prepared as some of the advocates would like. They certainly dead and they did not answer all of their questions. And skirting as to where these issues are. Is difficult to look at these maps and see exactly where these planes are going to go. They certainly didn't satisfy but there was a site element. People who commented at that meeting, their comments are not automatically included in the hope proposal so that have to comment again to be a part of it . in what sense is is just another argument. A few years ago we had the vote on moving the commercial airport to Miramar field but that would have affected people and they would've complained. I will tell you, I am new to San Diego but the airport runways and flight patterns in San Diego are a major topic. We were just talking about this at the station tour. There were applause in the background when this was brought up. I asked people if they were from point Loma but they said they were from the University they felt that the flight patterns had come more numerous as well. 50 years after were dead the beheading committees. The first story I wrote was about airport noise. [ Indiscernible - Multiple Speakers ] can the airport authority which is public agency yet not publicly elected, can they say no can they tell the airlines or their customers to not make those turns? What they say, and they're not publicly commenting much, Bill say this is the FAA's prerogative they're the ones that set the patterns and that they can address concerns. Ultimately if the levels go up they can qualify for local programs some sound mitigation programs. Though now the FAA is saying they won't be any significant effect from these changes. Wasn't there proposal a few years ago to to a floating airport two yes Alpine the floating airport, Alpine. Otherwise floating out on the coast, and the costs were [ laughter ]. Flip them over to North Island. Float them. I would say the Carlsbad airport or the point Carmel Valley. [ laughter ] once we deal with this we can deal with do we need a second runway or do we need a new board. It's a full employment act for reporters covering this issue. Recent airports like Denver, Reagan national, having an airport that's 30+ minutes out is typical. The Denver airport I believe is in Kansas [ laughter ]. Let's leave it with Kansas and the Denver airport that wraps up another week of stories at the Roundtable on KPBS. Thank you Tony period from the Los Angeles times and Steve Walsh of KPBS news. A reminder that all of the stories we discussed today are available on our website. I am Mark Sauer think for joining us today on the Roundtable. Midday edition Friday continues. Coming up we bring you in-depth reports her this week on KPBS including California's new right to die law and the battle against sugar on several fronts. It's 12:31 PM and you're listening to KPBS with the edition Friday.
Struggling To Treat the Mentally Ill in San Diego County
An estimated 188,000 San Diego County residents have a severe mental illness. Until recently, there were only 113 beds in a single long-term residential care facility for these patients. Recently the county added 40 more. There are psychiatric hospitals in the county for patients suffering from a crisis, but they are routinely full.
So, where do psychiatric patients go when they need help? Kenny Goldberg reported this week that they go to the ER for emergencies. For long-term treatment, many have to stay in hospitals, which aren't designed to treat mental illness. The patients suffer, and hospitals are clogged with patients they can't help effectively.
How did the system for treating mental illness become so broken in the county? And what can be done to make it work better?
Salton Sea Catastrophe?
California's largest lake was created by mistake. In wetter times, water from the Colorado River meant to irrigate crops in the desert east of San Diego overran aqueducts and spilled into the valley, creating the Salton Sea in 1905.
Since then, the lake has been fed in large part by agricultural runoff from Imperial County. But, as more water has been diverted away from crops and to San Diego County, the sea has been shrinking.
It's set to shrink a whole lot more at the end of 2017, when a requirement to pump water into the lake from the Colorado River lapses.
What happens then? As Tony Perry reports, some predict swirling toxic dust storms, resulting in more asthma and emergency room visits. Even so, not much has been done to prevent the looming disaster.
Point Loma Residents Oppose FAA's Proposal On Adjusted Flight Paths
A proposed change to the flight path of planes taking off from Lindbergh Field has residents in Point Loma fuming.
Currently, planes heading east from San Diego make a sweeping turn southwest of Point Loma. The proposed change will tighten up that turn, bringing planes closer inland on their way out of town.
The flight path changes are part of a nationwide adjustment by the FAA to use airspace — and fuel — more efficiently. The FAA contends residents shouldn't notice much of a sound difference, but as reporter Steve Walsh found out, residents aren't buying it.
At a public meeting this week, residents expressed concerns about plummeting home values and quality of life. But, one imagines they aren't getting much sympathy from residents of OB and Bankers Hill.