County Chief Administrative Officer Clifford Graves was right to move decisively last week to impose an interim reorganization of the Department of Health Services.
Graves, the lame-duck head of the county bureaucracy, acted after months of crisis atmosphere created by problems that have plagued Edgemoor Geriatric Hospital and the county mental health hospital, known as CMH. The new structure, which will continue into next year when a successor is named to replace Graves, breaks up the large Department of Health Services into independent units for public health, mental health and physical health. Each section will be headed by an administrator chosen from within county government who will report to a temporary deputy chief administrative officer.
Although Graves leaves office at the end of the year and the new chief administrator should be allowed to oversee the imposition of the permanent structure, the situation within the Department of Health Services had deteriorated to the point that urgent changes were needed.
State investigators have found hundreds of deficiencies at Edgemoor and have fined the county more than $30,000. The problems there included two deaths, one of a woman who drowned while unattended in a bathtub. A separate investigation at CMH turned up three deaths there that might have been prevented. Graves and Health Services Director James Forde have been under fire from county supervisors, the San Diego County Grand Jury, state health officials and Assemblyman Larry Stirling (R-San Diego) for the management of the two institutions.