A $1.3 million, state-funded, online suicide prevention program commissioned by the San Diego County Office of Education and promoted by the Union-Tribune is too expensive for most California school districts, says an audit released September 29 by California State Auditor Elaine Howle. A vendor hired by San Diego “supplied its preexisting online training and agreed to provide it to a total of 66,000 school personnel and students,” says the document. But auditors are skeptical about future use. “According to [California’s Department of Education], the funding the Legislature appropriated could not meet the training needs of all middle and high school staff and students in California, but it is advocating for the State to continue funding the training program in subsequent years. We question whether this is a cost‐effective approach to providing such training. At the rate the vendor charged for the licenses, it will cost more than $13.5 million per year to provide this training to every [local educational agency] teacher and staff member throughout the State.”
State auditor Elaine Howle: San Diego County education office’s suicide prevention program is too expensive.
The problem of student suicide is growing, notes Howle’s cover letter. “From 2009 through 2018, the annual number of suicides of youth ages 12 through 19 increased 15 percent, and incidents of self-harm increased 50 percent.” Every one of the three school districts and three charter schools, including the San Francisco Unified School District, reviewed by Howle’s office “failed to adopt policies and provide training” that met the suicide prevention requirements of 2016 legislation. “In the absence of adequate mental health professional staffing, the State’s rates of youth suicide and self-harm have continued to climb.”
San Diego’s Office of Education website identifies the program’s vendor as Canada-founded LivingWorks. A September video blog by the Union-Tribune said the newspaper was sponsoring an upcoming virtual youth summit by LivingWorks without mention of public costs and controversy. “On September 15, the LivingWorks Virtual Youth Summit will bring together a mix of performing artists, social media influencers, and motivational speakers to share a message of hope, resilience, and suicide prevention,” according to a YouTube blurb. “Jarrod Hindman, vice president of community development at LivingWorks and Monica Nepomuceno, an education consultant at the California Department of Education, will join us for a preview of this unique and informative event.”
Added U-T public relations director Luis Cruz: “TikTok star and comedian Caitlin O’Reilly will be MCing the online streaming event. She is hilarious, so I can’t wait to tune in.”
In an emailed statement, Music Watson, chief of staff for the San Diego County Office of Education responded to the audit: “We concur with the California state auditor that schools should implement appropriate suicide prevention policies; train their faculty and staff to recognize and respond to youth who are at risk of suicide or self-harm; and employ an adequate number of professionals, such as school counselors, who can provide mental health services. That being said, we disagree with the audit’s conclusion that few local education agencies will have access to the online suicide prevention training program being rolled out across California.”
Real estate developer Brad Termini gave $50,000 to a PAC backing Todd Gloria.
Termini family Gloria gifts
Well-heeled San Diego candidates continue to come up with their own money to finance their campaigns. At the top rung is La Jolla city councilwoman Barbara Bry, running against fellow Democrat, Assemblyman Todd Gloria for mayor. She gave her campaign fund $75,000 on September 28. Republican lawyer Joe Leventhal, running for the Fifth District council seat now held by termed-out ex-Republican Mark Kersey, wrote a check to his campaign for $20,000 on September 19... In family matters, Brad Termini, chief executive of Encinitas-based real estate deveklopment group Zephyr Partners, and Stefanie Termini each kicked in a hefty $50,000 last October to an independent political committee backing Gloria’s race for mayor. Besides development activity in San Diego county, Termini has been pitching a so-called cannabis campus in Buffalo, New York. “Company officials told reporters they plan to invest $200 million in private money to build the campus, which will not only be used as an incubator space and education for students at SUNY Erie, but also for commercial purposes,” reported radio station WBEN in a February 2019 dispatch.
Brad and Stefanie also kicked in $2300 each for Gloria’s controlled campaign committee. September 19 Termini family Gloria givers, each at $1150, were Bridget, Dominic, Rocco, and Shelby, all of Buffalo.
Complaint form malfeasance
Interim San Diego city auditor Kyle Elser is out with an audit questioning the job San Diego police are doing with complaint handling. “We found that SDPD’s complaint process requires accepting, investigating, and reporting complaints, including anonymous and third-party complaints,” says the September 28 report. “However, we found that SDPD’s complaint forms are not as readily accessible as Best Practices require, and the Community Review Board on Police Practices’ online complaint form embedded on SDPD’s website includes statements and requirements that may inadvertently discourage the submission of anonymous or third-party complaints.”
Continues the audit: “Additionally, there is an inherent risk that sergeants may not always follow procedure, and we found this risk is increased for the complaint process due to several recent changes to the complaints procedure and practices. This could result in some complaints being incorrectly classified and documented, preventing SDPD and the public from identifying and addressing potential misconduct.”
— Matt Potter
[Source of graph at top: Analysis of hospital encounter data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development]
The Reader offers $25 for news tips published in this column. Call our voice mail at 619-235-3000, ext. 440, or sandiegoreader.com/staff/matt-potter/contact/.