Teen dies in SLO County facility, cold before anyone noticed

June 24, 2024

Ribbon cutting at San Luis Obispo County Crisis Stabilization Unit


A Paso Robles teen died at a San Luis Obispo County mental health facility in May, though it would be hours before anyone noticed. After complaining for months about mismanagement at the facility, the teen’s death prompted four employees to hand in their notices.

Following the deaths of several mentally ill patients, including Andrew Holland, in 2018 the county opened a crisis stabilization unit. The unit was supposed to “allow medical professionals to stabilize up to four community members at a time who are experiencing a serious mental health issue.”

SLO County outsources management of the unit to Sierra Mental Wellness Group, which has refused to discuss allegations of misconduct and the teen’s death. A handful of current and former employees of the unit spoke with a CalCoastNews reporter. They asked that their names not be listed in the article to protect their employment.

In Nov. 2023, an employee at the unit asked her supervisor why they were admitting people who did not qualify to stay at the unit because of a variety of reasons. A few days later, management removed policies and procedures from the policy and procedure binder.

Even so, an employee continued to randomly check to make sure the battery for the defibrillator was working. Earlier this year, the employee discovered the battery was dead and informed a supervisor who allegedly chastised the employee for checking the device.

Even so, a new battery was ordered though it was not taken out of the box.

On May 15, emergency medical personnel transported 19-year-old Elina Branco of Paso Robles to French Hospital Medical Center because of a drug overdose. At the hospital, medical personnel gave the teen multiple doses of Narcan.

Twelve hours later, at 1 p.m., medical staff transported the teen to the SLO County Crisis Stabilization Unit.

Even though staff members voiced concerns over the teen’s admission to the unit because of her medical issues, a supervisor allegedly said she would sleep it off and that they would check on her in the morning. The two day shift workers arrived at 7:30 a.m. the next morning.

At 9 a.m., an employee noticed the teen was not breathing and that her body was cold. The employee called for the defibrillator, but the battery was dead. The teen did not survive.

“She would still be alive if not admitted to the crisis stabilization unit,” an employee said. “It is so bad the clients are in danger. There are no policies and procedures to review.”

Prior to the teen’s death, staff was required to do a check on patients every two hours through the unit’s video monitoring system, according to employees. Since the teen’s death, staff now does in-person checks every 15 minutes.

Shortly after the facility first opened in 2018, employees began complaining of mismanagement and failures to follow the law.

For example, the unit is a 24-hour facility, and is only permitted to keep patients for up to 72 hours under limited circumstances, a requirement staff says is frequently ignored.

“Its all about keeping people in there, all about the numbers,” an employee said. “It is a mental health facility, though they allow people with serious physical health issues.”

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department is currently investigating the death.

Please call reporter Karen Velie at (805) 234-1703 if you have further information about the teen’s death or issues at the SLO County Crisis Stabilization Unit.


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It may be a leap to assume that there are two night shift workers, but how difficult is it for two people to monitor four beds? Also, why would the sheriff investigate a death in an agency created to mitigate the high death rate in his own department? Isn’t there a state agency to do this when locals have a conflict of interest?

At first I was happy to hear that finally they had a place for youth to get mental health assistance in the county. I mean this is the ONLY facility here right? But you’ve got to be kidding? How can they be so irresponsible? Who is it that manages this place? Karen doesn’t mention. What is the point of even opening it, if they are neglecting to run it properly? Unfortunately, the only way to make sure the changes happen are with law suits.

Well, who’s going to jail? Or maybe they should be sent to the Stabilization Unit…

They’re all even crazier than the patients.

Incompetence abounds..

just waiting for Matt Fountain to steal this story from Karen like he did with Andrew Holland and collect his journalist award!

It will be interesting how this plays out. Will she suddenly have family that will sue for damages because someone else didn’t keep a closer watch over her?

Unfortunately, many of these assisted care facilities care more about profits than patients.

Not unlike the medical facility that dumped her on a mental health facility before she was stable.

Our healthcare system is a joke, I know a person who suffered an aneurism and was taken to a local hospital they didn’t discover the problem but told her sister to take her home. The sister refused because the patient was disoriented and kept falling headfirst. A call from an 80- year- old father to hospital administration threatening a lawsuit if they refused treatment to his daughter saved her life.

The hospitals don’t want you to die on their watch but instead of figuring out what to do to save your life, they try to get you out any way possible reducing their liability.

And no, it wasn’t Twin Cities.

The coverup begins.