San Jose

South Bay Leaders to Mull Proposal for Psychiatric Facility for Teens, Younger Children

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will vote on a potential lifeline for troubled teens and children.

The leaders plan to mull a plan for a 36-bed inpatient psychiatric facility aimed just for youth at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. The project could cost anywhere from $50 to 60 million.

Santa Clara County currently houses 17 beds, but District 5 Supervisor Joe Simitian says those are not enough. When those beds fill up, children faced with psychiatric emergencies either travel out of the county for treatment or stay home.

"I'm not sure people realize just how widespread the need is," Simitian said. "We're talking about hundreds and hundreds of families every year who need this kind of help."

Resident and mother Terry Gallo of San Jose has been fighting for a psychiatric facility ever since her daughter started experiencing psychotic episodes.

"I truly feel that if my daughter Tessa had a medical psych facility to go to, she wouldn’t be brain damaged today," Gallo said. "A lot of it is money. The hospitals don't make as much money off of psych patients unfortunately compared to heart transplants or children with cancer unfortunately, but it is something I feel we desperately need."

Critics of the proposal point to the problems with the current expansion of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, which is years past due and $180 million over budget. Some wonder if the county can manage yet another project at the hospital location.

Simitian argues that the facility would pay for itself because Santa Clara County wouldn't have to send at-risk youth out of the county and the facility would be able to accept children from elsewhere.

"While 36 beds may not sound like a lot, the typical stay is about six or seven days so in any given year you could literally help several hundred if not more local families as well as a be a resource for the rest of the Bay Area," Simitian said.

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