WHY SF CARES ABOUT LOCAL HEALTH CRISIS

As the controller of the city and county of San Francisco, I have been following with interest The Press Democrat’s stories about the closure of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital’s inpatient psychiatric unit. As I understand it, Sonoma County couldn’t afford to run its own health care facilities so it turned them over to Sutter Health. Since Sutter couldn’t make money, it is closing the facilities down and turning some of them over to Memorial. Memorial can’t make money on in-patient pyschiatric services so it is going to shut them down.

These articles say that this will be unfair to patients and their families because they will have to travel to other counties, like San Francisco, to have their health care needs met. I agree.

But what makes you think this is fair to the taxpayers of San Francisco? What makes folks in Sonoma County think San Francisco makes money on serving people with mental health care needs? Of course we don’t — we spend millions of dollars of local money on mental health care every year.

We just happen to believe it is our responsibility to take care of our family members, friends and neighbors who are in need. We make the tough decisions to raise local taxes to pay these bills, and we get a lot of grief for it.

If you are serious about taking care of people in need of health care in Sonoma County, you should:

* Tell your federal and state representatives they need to pay more to take care of people with mental health and other health care needs so counties and hospitals can afford to offer services, and;

* Tell the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors that it is not OK to dump your mental health patients on other counties where we apparently care more than you do about taking care of your own people.

Ed Harrington is the controller of the city and county of San Francisco and has a weekend home near Santa Rosa.