Sale of hospital is hot topic at June FRHD board meeting

Gloria Magallanes

Special to Valley News

Fallbrook Regional Health District (FRHD) held its monthly regular board meeting June 14 at the Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD) and addressed the public’s comments and concerns over the sale of the hospital building.

The board of directors discussed the sale of the vacant facility located at 624 East Elder St. to mental health provider Crestwood Behavioral Health for $4.5 million. Crestwood’s executive vice president, Patricia Blum, was on hand to give a presentation on the planned Fallbrook Healing Center.

During her presentation, Blum chose to not finish when it became clear that several people in the audience were not happy with the sale to Crestwood. Blum patiently took the time to hear their fears and answer questions from the audience.

The environment in the room quickly intensified with people talking over each other, seeking answers from Blum and the board with passionate statements. Some people, including Dr. Tim Murphy, a psychiatrist who has been practicing in Fallbrook for over 38 years, spoke in favor of Crestview, saying we are greatly underserved in this area.

People demanded an explanation about why FRHD had decided to sell the hospital facility without a public vote and why so rushed. The board responded that they had been working for two years to attract another hospital and when it appeared no one was interested, they listed the building for sale nationally and everything has been very public. Residents stated that they felt the hospital facility was equally theirs and a vote should have been cast as was stated last year, even if it was not required by the Health and Safety Code.

“Even though the Board stated they would allow community input and a vote on the issue, it appears they have gone ahead and signed an agreement to sell the building in the last 30 days,” said Pete Klein.

In response to these statements, FRHD, citing a Health and Safety Code 32121(p), stated that “since the property being considered for sale (the hospital building and parking lots at 624 E. Elder) does not include the building at 138 S. Brandon or the building at 617 East Alvarado, a vote is not required as the $4.5 million sale price constitutes only 38 percent of the district’s assets.”

Klein then asked about code #32121(B) that pertains to the transfer of 10 to 50 percent of assets with the requirement of “two properly noticed and open and public meetings.” Kline stated the April board meeting would not qualify as Crestwood was not even mentioned at the meeting.

FRHD’s legal counsel responded by stating the appropriate code is really 32121.2 not 32121(B), as it is not a transfer but rather a sale.

Despite the opposition, the board members stood their ground and defended their decision to sell the hospital facility, saying that the new Fallbrook Healing Center would have a positive impact on the community and would help with the creation of over 100 new jobs. The board added Crestwood would not only occupy an abandoned facility, but they would also be able to help people in the community who needed treatment.

Some audience members expressed concerns about not having a hospital for the community and questioned whether having Fallbrook Healing Center would be beneficial to everyone.

Other questions were about both Crestwood and Fallbrook Healing Center. The audience questioned the nature of the facility, the success rate of patients being treated there after they were discharged, and whether patients were secured or, as some said, “locked in,” while receiving treatment. Others wanted to know the price for admission and how much revenue Crestwood would make monthly. The board of directors and Blum listened quietly and calmly, hoping to alleviate the tension with reassurance of hope for a better community.

Attendees wanted to know if Crestwood would be housing criminals and people who would be a danger the community. Blum answered that typically these people are depressed or bi-polar and they are not criminals. If the court sends them to Crestwood, it is because they simply don’t have the mental capacity to manage their own affairs and they need longer term care. If they are a danger to anyone, it would most likely be toward themselves. Blum also explained that after the residents finish their program they are transported and reintroduced to their own community and not “let go” into Fallbrook.

Others in the audience, approving of the new mental health rehabilitation center, talked about their pride in the Fallbrook and Bonsall area, “The Friendly Village,” and encouraged others to be selfless in the pursuit of a more unified and healthy community.

For a list of the 12 questions and answers presented at the FRHD meeting, go to villagenews.com.

The board of directors urged people in the audience who had more questions to visit the FRHD office at 138 S. Brandon Road.

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