What happens when the region’s only psychiatric hospital burns

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When a psychiatric hospital in Ventura was damaged by the Thomas Fire, dozens of patients were forced to go without treatment. A year later, a look at the ripple effects that’s had on the community.

“December 4 was a pretty horrific night. Our patients were extremely resilient. I had five adolescents in my car with me when we evacuated to the fairgrounds. [The staff and I] were able to set up shop there and work all night to get everyone transferred out to appropriate [psychiatric] care. It was a pretty phenomenal event when you look back at it.

The next day, we came out here and realized that we lost all of our utility infrastructure — our electrical equipment burned, our generator, our pump house for the water supply. At that time, we had 87 patient beds. We lost 32 of them. I got several calls during that time of people, families not being able to find services. Now that we’re open again, we’re seeing patients who did not receive the help they needed in that gap. There are some pretty devastating results of that, especially in terms of the adolescent population. We provide the only adolescent beds in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties.

Patients typically come to us during one of the worst days in their lives. It’s a population that is vulnerable and discriminated against and, unfortunately, has not been a priority. It’s evident by the lack of resources. The devastation of losing those beds, the devastation of not having enough beds even before the Thomas Fire — there needs to be more attention paid to making sure we’re a better safety net to those in our community who are suffering. We’re hoping to have all of our beds open early in the New Year.”