Skip to comments.D.C. mental health department scolded for BlackBerry spending
Posted on 03/13/2006 11:35:56 AM PST by JZelle
The D.C. Department of Mental Health in fiscal 2005 spent more than $30,000 on hand-held BlackBerry technology, prompting criticism from a D.C. Council member who says the money could have been put to better use. "I understand everybody likes these gadgets," said D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent and chairman of the council's Committee on Health, which oversees the mental health department. "I wouldn't buy myself a BlackBerry," he said of the wireless e-mail devices. Speaking at a council oversight hearing of the department last week, Mr. Catania told mental health officials he had concerns about several other purchases, too. For example, he questioned the "$75,000 for snow and ice removal whenwe have what is called a Department of Public Works that plows the streets."
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"B|tch set me up."
Frankly this sounds to me like a perfectly legitimate expenditure (which makes it highly unusual for DC city government). One of the big reasons why government is perennially inefficient is that it is virtually always WAY behind the times in the technology it uses. The mental health department of a city like DC has a highly mobile staff, that is often encountering situations that arise suddenly and require quick handling. And many aspects of handling mental health situations require documentation, e.g. authorization to enter someone's residence, or to haul someone away for involuntary psych evaluation or treatment. Blackberries enable things like court orders and instructions from authorized superiors to get where they're needed when they're needed.
And the snow removal? Well, it's nice that there's a public works department that's SUPPOSED to handle that. But the last time there was a major snowfall in DC, the lack of snow removal ended up shutting down Congress for 2-3 days. When Congressional investigators looked into the matter, they discovered that 2/3rds of the trash trucks owned by the city, which double as snow plows, had simply disappeared (and not recently). So in addition to the theft and fencing to organized-crime-affiliated trash-hauling businesses of dozens of very expensive trash trucks, the people who were being paid to drive those trucks every day, picking up trash, simply hadn't been doing it.
I have no idea what the overall state of DC's mental health department is, but there's nothing in this story to suggest that it isn't much better managed than the vast majority of DC city government departments.