Casa Pacifica’s “Hope” project breaks ground

It’s the first expansion for the Casa Pacifica campus since 1994 as phase 1 begins to create a centralized location for outpatient services, expand the health clinic’s medical and psychiatric facilities and expand individual, group and family therapy meeting space.

“We are very excited to have this project underway and look forward to the healing and life-changing results the new substance-use treatment program will bring for our communities’ addicted youth,” said CEO Steven Elson. “The treatment method that will be implemented in the cottages has demonstrated an 80 percent success rate in programs where it is currently in use.”

The first phase of the project, dubbed “Building New Foundations of Hope,” includes construction of a new training institute where Casa’s training programs will be housed. Casa Pacifica trains new foster parents, caregivers and regional and nationwide childcare workers as part of its program.

Phase 1’s budget of $16.6 million has been raised 90 percent. For more information on the project, and for information on how to donate, visit www.hopeforcasapacifica.org.

New tax rates in Santa Paula, Ventura take effect April 1

Santa Paula and Ventura residents, prepare yourself: A tax increase is coming on Saturday, April 1. In November 2016, voters approved an increase in both cities. Santa Paula residents will see the sales tax rate go from 7.25 percent to 8.25 percent, while in Ventura, the rate will go from 7.25 percent to 7.75 percent.

Measure T, Santa Paula’s tax increase, will be in effect for 20 years and is expected to raise as estimated $2.1 million annually. Ventura’s Measure O, dubbed the Clean Water/Beaches/Street Repairs/Safety Measure, will be in effect for 25 years and is expected to bring in $10 million annually.

Ventura’s Measure O requires a citizen oversight committee comprised of a seven-member board that will offer recommendations on spending collected money, with a first payment expected in July. The city received 69 applications for the committee, currently under review by the City Council, which will hold interviews on April 3, 4 and 11.

Santa Paula clinic hosts event on opioid epidemic

The local branch in Santa Paula of the statewide clinic Aegis will have an open house on Wednesday, April 5, to address the chronic opioid epidemic affecting families and individuals across the nation and specifically in Ventura County.

In a recent survey released by the Centers for Disease Control, California led the nation with opioid deaths — a record of 4,251 in 2016 and more Californians now die from opioid overdose than from car accidents.

In 2015, Ventura County saw 4,500 admissions to the drug treatment system alone, according to Tamara Lemalu, Santa Paula clinic manager. At the Santa Paula clinic, 65 percent of those receiving medication-assisted treatment reported heroin to be their primary drug, some of them starting as early as 12 years old, while 34 percent reported prescription drug abuse that began as treatment for chronic pain.

“This is the time that our community needs to come together to raise awareness of substance abuse disorders and mental health diseases,” said Lemalu.

Aegis’ open house will take place on April 5 from 3-6 p.m. at Aegis Treatment Centers, 625 E. Main St., Santa Paula. For more information, call 525-4669.

County foundation to repay investments

The California Office of the Attorney General confirmed last week the fiscal problems that Ventura County Community Foundation had found in June 2016, which included investment issues that put the foundation’s solvency at risk. While the foundation has been steadily working to resolve the issues, the AG filed a separate report on March 23 with related corrective actions. Vanessa Bechtel, CEO and president of the foundation, relayed that the foundation is on track to balance the books. Bechtel clarified the foundation’s steps to implement the AG’s corrective actions:

First finding, VCCF’s prior management and board held unreasonably optimistic expectations in its prior capital campaign, leading to the purchase of VCCF’s office building. In purchasing the building, VCCF improperly used $3.8 million of endowment funds earmarked to support VCCF’s operations. Corrective Action: VCCF will restore those funds upon sale of the building or its final mortgage payment.

“The building is assessed for $8.6 million. We have secured a new loan for the building that extends 27 years with Clearinghouse,” Bechtel said. “The loan is for $4.6 million and is interest-only the first year and then 5.75 percent amortized over 30 years with a final payment scheduled in 27 years. After the first year of interest-only, both principal and interest comes to $322,000. The other loan we have is Hilton Foundation and that payment is $40,000 a year.” As for paying the mortgage, “Our building rents take care of our mortgage. We do have some available space to lease to better maximize the space, but we have 16 current tenants (all nonprofits serving Ventura County).”

Second finding, VCCF’s prior management and board made improper, over-investment of permanent funds into money market accounts and other observations found in the Foundation’s independent fiduciary review conducted by KPMG. Corrective Action: VCCF will replenish $1.8 million of lost (under-earned) investment income to the various affected funds, and will work with an independent consultant to develop new procedures and policies.

“The terms for repayment are 2 years interest-only at 3 percent and then 10 years fully amortized with interest,” Bechtel said.

Despite these financial issues, Bechtel said that the foundation raised approximately $2.1 million in capital last year, and disbursed $3.5 million in funds on behalf of its donors for numerous philanthropic causes, programs and activities.

“Our portfolio of $100 million is invested in a diversified portfolio and earns investment returns that are outside of the $2.1 million of new charitable capital we raised,” Bechtel said.

To learn more about the Ventura County Community Foundation, go to www.vccf.org. — Michael Sullivan