The former chairman of Ventura County's Mental Health Advisory Board chided the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday for failing to stop turf wars that have wreaked havoc in the Behavioral Health Department for more than four years.
John Chaudier, who served on the advisory panel for six years, said he warned supervisors in 1999 that David Gudeman, a psychiatrist with little administrative experience, was not qualified to run the government agency, which has a $50-million annual budget.
But supervisors, on a 3-2 vote, hired Gudeman, Chaudier said. Supervisors said at the time that they had confidence Gudeman could bring warring factions together and improve mental-health services.
Continuing problems in the department show his warning was correct, Chaudier told supervisors Tuesday.
"Things have not gotten better, ladies and gentlemen ..., " he said. "We could almost sense what is happening today was going to happen."
Critics contend that Gudeman finds reasons not to provide mental-health services and feuds with other county agency heads over which budget should be used to pay for treatment. The county this week narrowly averted a legal showdown over Gudeman's initial refusal to treat a teenager who needed psychiatric care.
Judge John Dobroth said Monday he would hold off ordering the services for two weeks because county officials have assured him the youth would receive treatment and that broader changes in the Behavioral Health Department are underway.
County Executive Officer Johnny Johnston is expected to make recommendations April 16 to the Board of Supervisors.
Johnston has said he will look at everything from making Behavioral Health separate from the larger Health Care Agency to reviewing Gudeman's performance.
Gudeman defends his tenure, saying he has managed to serve more mentally ill clients with fewer dollars. The mental health chief said he is drawing up new programs that will further expand services to mentally ill juveniles.
Gudeman's backers say it's simplistic to blame all department troubles on its leader. Behavioral Health was already fractured from previous administrative battles when Gudeman took over, they say. And many of the problems arise from systemic flaws, not lack of management ability, they say.
"We do have problems, but it's more complicated than one person," board Chairman John Flynn said.