Rocklin Police Chief Weighs in on Proposed Mental Health Facility

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Police Chief Ron Lawrence knows his community is counting on him.

Amid the mounting concern from residents over a proposed mental health hospital, Lawrence is personally taking a look at possible public safety issues.

"It would be premature to release the findings when we haven't even completed the process," said Lawrence.

According to the chief, the public safety analysis has been going on since late October and is expected to wrap up in the next couple of weeks.

"We want to know what the patient to staff ratio is, how staff coordinates with police when there is an emergency situation, how often does law enforcement get called to one of the facilities, so we might anticipate how one in Rocklin might work," he said.

Where this issue begins for community members, though,  is the location of the hospital.

"We need these services in Placer County, desperately" said concerned citizen Joe Patterson. "My biggest concern, bar-none, is 597 feet from a high school."

Patterson claims the proposed facility, to be operated by Universal Health Systems is slightly less than 600 feet from Whitney High School.

"How's the city going to be able to respond to those escapes?" asked Patterson. "597 feet, you could be here in 5 seconds. Something, unfortunately could happen, and we want to make sure it doesn't happen, and that it is never an issue."

Already UHS has held one community meeting on the topic, and a second one is slated for this coming Tuesday at the Rocklin Event Center.

"We really have to weigh out is there an immediate danger to the surrounding area, and it's impossible to put a distance on that," Lawrence said.

The chief's public safety report is expected to be presented to the Planning Commission ahead of the scheduled Jan. 19 meeting to possibly vote on the proposal. The city is already on record saying the project meets all the zoning requirements. But the chief did say he is concerned at what happens when there is a missing person from the facility.

"The hospital will call and tell us about a missing person, but there are HIPPA laws that might preclude them from telling us the history behind that patient or why they're at the hospital," he said.

And Lawrence said his agency would act appropriately, which could mean locking down Whitney High School.

"It can never be built at this location," said Patterson. "It will be very hard for the hospital to mitigate our big concern, which is the location."

Added Chief Lawrence: "This one proposal is an exercise in the democratic process, and our community should feel excited that we have a city government that is so responsive and so caring to their needs."


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