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As the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor’s Office congratulate each other for avoiding any city layoffs in their midyear proposals to close a $45 million deficit, the UCSF Trauma Recovery Center will close its doors in March.

The center, located at 2727 Mariposa St., will lay off its staff of 12 and will stop giving counseling and case management services to their 750 clients they see each year if the proposal goes through.

The closing of this popular center, praised by the health department and seen as the model for three other proposed centers in California, shows that the city will no longer fund programs created by the state and gives a hint of coming budget negotiations.

“It is a difficult decision,” said Greg Sachs from the Department of Public Health, which funds the program. “The time has come where we have to sort of face the reality of our financial situation.”

The program faces a midyear budget cut of $347,529, in addition to the $750,000 cut it received at the beginning of the year, effectively eliminating the program.

Sachs said that the patients would be able to go to similar programs like the rape treatment center, which is in the same building as the trauma center, or CASARC, which serves children and adolescents who are victims of sexual assault.

Alicia Boccellari, the director of the Trauma Recovery Center, countered that these providers don’t offer comparable services to the recovery center.

City institutions like the board, District Attorney’s Office and the Mayor’s Office have praised the recovery center, while Governor Schwarzenegger cut funding for the program in 2007.

After the center lost the $1.5 million in funding from the state, the city picked up the tab because it was seen as a vital program, public health officials said.

After funding the program for two years, and a multimillion-dollar budget gap, the city can no longer afford to do that.

“We are now at the point where the department has or feels that, given the state has not shown any interest or ability to fund the program that we cannot afford to continue backfilling,” said Greg Warner, the mayor’s budget director.

State Senator Mark Leno has taken an interest in funding the center and creating three others throughout California when he introduced SB 733 early last year. Even if the  bill passed, the center will not see that money until next year and funding will only run for three years.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said that the Department of Public Health has been consistently trying to get rid of the trauma center and may finally have done so.

“It seems like there is a repeated effort to make it go away for quite some time,” Mirkarimi said. “I wish that it was prioritized a little bit differently in the city.”

The center is not the only state health program to lose city dollars. The state drug Medi-Cal reduction will lose half a million and substance abuse and crime prevention programs will lose $1.2 million.

Despite opposition from the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor’s Office does not need the board’s approval for the cuts.

The center, which serves victims of violent crime, did their own research and found that their program reduced homelessness by 41 percent and increased the number of police reports by their clients, according to Boccellari.

Supervisors Mirkarimi and John Avalos, who heard testimony on the subject on Wednesday at a Budget and Finance Committee meeting, want to keep the center operating.

“I don’t think it’s as inexplicable as the paper makes it sound — why the homicide rates have dropped — but the T.R.C. and the other partners are why I think violent crime went down in the city,” Mirkarimi said. “These are partners that really help with the collateral consequences of violent crime.”

That is the case with Larry Wilson, a patient at the recovery center.

After his son was murdered in a road rage incident in 2007, he said he wanted to kill someone to avenge him.

“I was driving around looking for someone to pay,” he said. After receiving one-on-one counseling these thoughts have gone away and he has accepted his son’s death, he said.

He added that he still calls the center once in a while and is very thankful that he found it.

Meanwhile Boccellari said she has seen other cases like Wilson’s, where young men who suffer gunshot wounds have fantasies of retaliation.

“It’s great that [the city] is funding public safety agencies,” Boccellari said. “But what about the victims?”

correction: an earlier version of the article had said that SB 733 had passed. The bill is currently in the state senate’s appropriations committee awaiting passage.

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Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare time he can be found riding his bike around the city, going to Giants games and admiring the Stable building.

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  1. Alicia Bocellari has negated the fact that there are well trained, and expert Psych-Mental Health, and Family Nurse Practitioners that comprise the Rape Treatment Center. They are ready and willing to see patients for mental health follow-up. It is a conundrum as to why, knowing that these cuts were coming that Alicia B. did not make sure that the necessary supports were put into place to insure ongoing mental health, and forensic care… There is zero support, and acknowledgement of the Rape Treatement Center at SFGH by this woman. As a matter of fact she has single handedly attempted to dismantle the Rape Treatment Center, instilled fear amongst NPs in re: to requests for shared governance in patient care, and this past summer fully knowing that the Rape Treatment Center needed support after the long term Nursing Manager resigned for re-location appointed a less well trained Physician Assistant as the acting head of a team of Nurse Practitioners with both Psych, and Women’s Health, and Adult Medicine training… at both the doctoral level, and masters level of graduate education. It is no small wonder that there is little or no public understanding re: the most critical of needs that go unaddressed, and that is the victims of sexual, and domestic violence at SFGH… Due to poor staffing by Alicia B. victims have even been referred to San Mateo County during her rampage, and poor management over the last 6 months. She arbitrarily removed one doctoral level prepared Sexual Abuse Recovery Team NP for no reason other than self serving egotism, and another experienced emergency NP resigned because of the undesirable environmental working
    conditions. The Rape Treatment Center would better serve the community under the direction of the SFGH Emergency Dept, or it must be contracted out to an independent service. In truth, Alicia Bocellari is not an effective clinical leader to a medical team, and the tragedy lies in the loss the community experiences by not receiving the expert nursing care that is available through the team of RTC NPs.

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