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Be Mindful: Addressing mental health challenges in Monterey County

SALINAS, Calif. (KION-TV): In late October, shoppers at the DD's Discount Store in Salinas were asked to leave the building because investigators said 50-year-old Fernando Lupian Rivas entered the store saying he had been stabbed.

Rivas later died and 36-year-old Jose Velasco was arrested and charged with the crime. Velasco has since pleaded not gulity to first-degree murder.

The mother of Velasco, Rita Acosta, said her son has gone through mental health problems for years.

"He was five years old when we realized he was hearing and talking to the voices," said Acosta. "I used to watch him through the window, I thought he had an imaginary friend, he burnt my bedroom in my house."

Acosta said Velasco has been in and out of jail. He was involved in a police brutality case in 2015 and also accused of robbing a taco truck.

When he got released from prison, Acosta said her son still needed help. She said she tried putting her son in a local psychiatric unit two weeks before the deadly stabbing, but he was released after a few days.

"Like omg they sent him back? I started calling again mental health," said Acosta. "Behavioral health, I said my son just got out of the psych unit, and he is not well, they took him in and did an evaluation on him, but they sent him back, "How do they know what, well, good is for him?"

Acosta said her son was in the psychiatric unit at Natividad Medical Center for 3 days. Under California's 5150 law if someone cannot provide food, clothing, and shelter and is experiencing a mental health crisis, they can only stay at a hospital for up to 72 hours.

Kathryn Eckert with the Monterey County Behavioral Health Department said that needs to change.

"Yes, it does need to be funded." said Eckert, Monterey County Behavioral Health, Bureau Chief.

"I think it's much more critically important that we build support and structure embedded in our communities to help our communities," said Eckert. "Our neighbors, our friends, our families thrive within our community."

Eckert said for that reason, the County of Monterey is working to provide more services.

"We are working right now at converting the old jail into a mental health rehabilitation center" said Eckert. Eckert said the center would allow people who came out of a mental health unit, to stay there in a locked setting while they're trying to get them stabilized to get them back in the community.

Monterey County Behavioral Health received a 20-million dollar grant from the state.

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Nataly Gutierrez


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