Saturday, 20 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – It's another record-setting year for the eradication of illegal marijuana in Lake County.

Since 2006 Lake County has led the state in the number of plants eradicated within its borders, with increasing amounts found on state and federally owned lands, as Lake County News has reported.

It appears no different this year.

So far this season, with another month to go, Lake County Sheriff's deputies and agents with the state's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) have pulled 517,942 illegally grown plants from both public and private lands, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

In addition, officials have seized 272 pounds of processed marijuana and 14 firearms, and made 34 arrests, Bauman said.

In 2008, there were 498,174 plants eradicated, 220 pounds of processed marijuana and seven firearms seized, and three arrests made, according to Bauman.

Total plants eradicated for 2007 totaled 507,000 and 344,241 for 2006, based on previous state reports.

Bauman said the sheriff's office has one detective assigned full-time to marijuana suppression.

Depending on the operation, as many as 10 to 15 CAMP members assist with an eradication during the season and another two to four local police officers assist with an operation, he said. That means a typical eradication operation can involve anywhere from one to 20 people, including CAMP.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

LAKEPORT – The Lakeport Senior Center has elected a new board of directors.

The board was elected through balloting that took place Sept. 21 through 25. The center's registered program participants elected the group.

Ballots were available at the center during lunch and ballots were delivered to Meals on Wheels recipients by the drivers. Ballots were restricted to one ballot per person and verified against the data contained in the state reporting system “Q.”

Results were tabulated and published at the center on Sept. 28. Those elected to the board are Ann Bussard, Ginny Cline, Pat McIvor, Pam Plank, Jo Rodriguez, Betty Lou Serber, Mike Swartz, Jean Welch and Marie Zelif.

Elected as alternates to the board are Pat Skoog and “Doc” Starin.

The new board will be seated at the next regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 16.

JJ Jackson, chief executive officer and executive director, will act as facilitator for this meeting only.

At that time cards will be drawn to determine one-, two- and three-year terms to prevent full board replacement annually. The election of the chairperson, co-chairperson, secretary and treasurer also will take place at this meeting.

All board members are required to attend a board training seminar to be held at the Highlands Senior Center on Friday, Oct. 9, from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. There will be a potluck dinner during the break.

LAKE COUNTY – Every 39 minutes someone in the U.S. is injured in a home fire.

Home fires result in hundreds of people being burned and even killed in Californian each year. That’s why Cal Fire is teaming up with fire departments across the country for Fire Prevention Week 2009 to urge all residents to “Stay Fire Smart! Don’t Get Burned.”

This year’s fire prevention week campaign runs Oct. 4 through the 10 and focuses on ways to keep

homes fire safe and prevent painful burns.

The statistics are staggering. Each year roughly 3,000 people die nationwide as a result of home fires and burns, and more than 200,000 individuals are seen in the nation’s emergency rooms for burn injuries.

“Firefighters wear protective equipment to keep them from getting burned,” said Cal Fire Chief Del Walters. “This week we want to equip the public with knowledge to keep them safe from fire and prevent devastating burn injuries.”

By following simple safety rules, you can “Stay Fire Smart! Don’t Get Burned.”

– Keep hot foods and liquids away from tables and counter edges so they cannot be pulled down or knocked over.

– Have a 3-foot “kid-free” zone around the stove.

– Never hold a child in your arms while preparing hot food or drinking a hot beverage.

– Be careful when using things that get hot such as curling irons, ovens, irons, lamps and heaters.

– Never leave a child alone in a room with a lit candle, portable heater, lit fireplace or stove, or where a hot appliance might be in use.

For more fire safety tips visit the Cal Fire Web site at .

LAKEPORT – A local man has received a sentence of more than 15 years in prison after being convicted of a sexual assault that took place last year.

On Monday Darnell James Mitchell, 46, of Nice was sentenced to state prison by Judge Arthur H. Mann for a sexual assault that took place last November.

Mitchell pleaded guilty on Aug. 24 to one count of assault with intent to commit rape, which is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four or six years, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Police reports indicate that on Nov. 2, 2008, the victim was at Mitchell’s residence with several other people.

The victim, who was 14 years old, consumed an unknown amount of alcohol and then she, Mitchell and another 18 year-old female left the residence and went to a nearby playground and continued to drink.

The investigation found that Mitchell attempted to grope the 18-year-old. She was able to escape but was forced to leave the victim, who was at that time passed out from the effects of the alcohol.

The 18-year-old shortly returned to the park with another young woman to help her get the victim home. There they saw Mitchell lying on top of the victim.

Mitchell reportedly fled when he saw the two young women approaching. The two young women then took the victim home.

Judge Mann elected to impose the upper term of six years, which was doubled to 12 years because Mitchell admitted that he had been convicted of a prior strike in Alameda County in 1997.

Mitchell’s sentence was further enhanced by two years because he admitted that he had served two prior prison terms. He previously was sentenced to a term in state prison for failure to maintain registration as a sex offender and one prior prison term, so another one year and eight months was added to his sentence.

The District Attorney's Office said the total aggregate term is 15 years and eight months. Because assault with intent to commit rape is a violent felony, Mitchell must serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

The lead investigator on the case was Det. Mike Curran of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Mitchell was represented by Jeremy Dzubay.

The victim received services through the District Attorney’s Victim Witness program. The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Ed Borg.

Lake Family Resource Center's administrative offices will be housed at this building at 5350 Main St. in Kelseyville, at the site of their new facility, which includes a domestic violence shelter. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

KELSEYVILLE – Now that it's the proud owner of a facility to house its administration offices and new domestic violence shelter, Lake Family Resource Center is getting settled into its new location.

The shelter and administration facility, which will include community classrooms and meeting rooms, is located at 5350 Main St. in Kelseyville.

“It's exciting to be actually on site,” said Executive Director Gloria Flaherty.

Following three years of fundraising and planning, escrow on the $1.1 million property closed in July, as Lake County News has reported.

Work is under way around the former motel property, which has several small cottage-type buildings that will temporarily house families seeking refuge from violent home environments. In all the facility will have 35 beds.

Flaherty said the domestic violence shelter isn't expected to be in place and ready for service until November.

Right now, however, the agency's administrative offices have relocated in the roughly 1,500-square-foot main building.

Next door is the Kelseyville Unified School District and Kelseyville High School, and the back of the administrative offices opens up into a large grassy area where birds can be heard loudly singing in the middle of town.

Flaherty said they're seeking assistance from service clubs to help landscape the grounds.

Contractors are busy at work around the grounds, preparing the shelter portion. Flaherty said Dave Meek is acting as general contractor on the project.

When it's done, the facility will have walk-in services and counseling for domestic violence victims on site in a separate building, said Flaherty. Another of the buildings will include community classrooms and storage.

While the facility is a nonconfidential shelter, with the idea being that the community will help monitor it, it will still be secured with cameras and a fenced parking area.

The shelter also will have a courtyard, a community area including laundry and kitchen facilities, and a children's playground at the back of the property, said Flaherty.

She said they're also seeking a grant to support placing pet kennels on the property. Flaherty explained that many people trying to escape a violent domestic environment are afraid to leave if they can't take their pets, because the animals also are in danger.

She added that the town of Kelseyville has been fantastic and supportive.

Just down the street, Lake Family Resource Center has rented a building to house its teen parenting, Healthy Families programs, and sexual assault and other programs.

Services also continue to be offered from it location on Lakeport Boulevard.

“We're pretty excited about it all,” said Flaherty.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .



The facility will include a domestic violence shelter, composed of numerous small cottages. The shelter facility, expected to be open in November 2009, is being renovated. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

LAKE COUNTY – The Health Leadership Network has begun work on a Community Food Assessment for Lake County, and the project team, lead by JoAnn Saccato, has just launched the surveys tools.

The comprehensive surveys will be used to assess the county’s food supply and demand status, as well as help assure a larger vision for the Lake County Food Policy Council – the county’s food security, sustainability and emergency preparedness citizen group.

With a grant award to Sutter Lakeside Hospital from the California Endowment on behalf of the Health Leadership Network (HLN), the HLN is able to fund this project with administrative support provided by the Lake County Marketing and Economic Development Program.

Two surveys are under way to help discern what food items are currently being grown and produced locally, as well as the potential demand for those products at retail and institutional outlets locally.

The information collected will be used to inform a local food guide and an effort towards a coordinated online ordering and distribution system for local food producers and buyers.

Having the surveys completed by all Lake County producers and buyers is critically important for the success of this project.

Food producers, such as farmers, ranchers and producers of value-added products like jams, cheeses, pickles and nut butters, are encouraged to take the brief producer survey. The information gathered will be used to create a database of food types and quantities available

Retail outlets, such as grocery and convenience stores, restaurants and farmers’ markets are encouraged to take the short buyer survey. This survey is also intended to include larger purchasers and institutions such as hospitals, schools, correction facilities and senior centers.

Community food assessments are a tool to assist communities in addressing such issues as food security and hunger, the availability of adequate nutritious foods, the capacity of communities to sustain themselves with locally grown or processed products while maintaining a healthy ecosystem, and to evaluate emergency preparedness in the event of unforeseen disruption in the food supply.

They are part of a growing movement across the nation to more effectively serve the food needs of

local communities.

The brief surveys can be taken online at .

Those without Internet access may take the survey or request a copy by contacting Lake County Community Food Assessment information line at (707) 995-9060.

Copies of the producer survey also is available at the Agricultural Commissioner’s office at the Lake County Agricultural Center in Lakeport and both surveys are available in the Lake County Administration office at the Courthouse in Lakeport, or downloaded from the Web site.

For more information about the Lake County Community Food Assessment, contact JoAnn Saccato at 707-350-1719, or Terre Logsdon at 707-263-2580.

For more information about the Lake County Food Policy Council, contact Denise Rushing at 707-275-8892.

To take the producer or buyer survey online or download a PDF version, visit .

The Health Leadership Network is a consortium of organizations working together to improve population health. The consortium includes: St. Helena-Clearlake Hospital, Sutter Lakeside Hospital, Lakeside Health Center, County Public Health Services, County Marketing and Economic Development, County Office of Education, County Dept of Social Services, First 5, Easter Seals, Lake Family Resource Center and Lake County Tribal Health.

The food assessment is paid for by a grant from the California Endowment to Sutter Lakeside Hospital on behalf of the Health Leadership Network.

HIGH VALLEY – Firefighters and air tankers responded to a small wildland fire along High Valley Road late Saturday afternoon.

The fire was reported at 12340 High Valley Road and Alta Vista Drive at about 4:40 p.m., according to Cal Fire.

Cal Fire Capt. Joe Petersen said the fire burned a total of six acres.

One air attack, two air tankers, a helicopter, a bulldozer, two hand crews from Konocti Conservation Camp and five engines responded from Cal Fire, Petersen said. Local fire districts offered mutual aid response, he said.

Cal Fire reported power lines were down at the site.

JD Guidi, a spokesman with Pacific Gas & Electric, said an oak tree branch had knocked down the lines.

Guidi said a total of six PG&E customers were affected by the downed power lines. Power to all of those customers was expected to be restored by midnight.

The downed power lines are a possible fire cause, but Petersen said the investigation is still under way.

The fire was reportedly contained at approximately 5:17 p.m., said Petersen.

Three engines remained on scene throughout the evening, conducting mopup operations, he added.

Earlier in the day, shortly before 2 p.m., a small grass fire was reported along Highway 29 south of Witter Springs.

Petersen said that fire burned less than half an acre before it was contained a short time later.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

COVELO – A Covelo man convicted of carjacking who later was arrested for other charges in Lake County was sentenced this week to nine years in state prison.

Reginald Lewis Azbill, 26, received the sentence in Mendocino County Superior Court, according to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office.

Azbill had pleaded guilty to one felony count of carjacking on June 5, 2008, officials reported.

While waiting for his sentencing date, Azbill was granted a one-day pass by Judge David Nelson to attend a funeral, according to the report.

Officials said Azbill absconded and was finally arrested and convicted in Lake County for possession of a dangerous weapon, and sentenced to the Department of Corrections on a parole violation.

After serving a year in prison, Azbill was returned to Mendocino County on the carjacking case, the Mendocino District Attorney's Office reported.

While the Probation Department recommended three years in state prison, the district attorney argued for the aggravated term because Azbill’s record was extensive, and the victim of the carjacking was a minor who was traumatized by the incident.

Judge Clayton Brennan agreed and ruled that the longer term was appropriate.

Daniel McConnell prosecuted the case for the District Attorney’s Office. Christina Briles of the alternate public defender's office represented Azbill.

T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.



if i don’t see you no more in this world

i’ll see you in the next one don’t be late

a dearly departed guitar master

It’s the beginning of football season. I think I’ll go deep. Back through time to the days of yore. I was a yet a rock and roll baby, weaned on the flavor of rhythm and blues. Somewhere on an excursion between soul and funk, I discovered jazz. It wasn’t like jazz was something foreign in our household. My Dad was into Count Basie, period. My Mom’s tastes were more varied:. Jimmy Smith, Bruebeck, Witherspoon, early Marvin Gaye. I’ve stated before that she turned me on to Koko Taylor and Sugar Pie DeSanto.

I remember when I was summoned wholeheartedly into the jazz realm. I was about 17 years old. I was in my room lying on my bed listening to the Silvertone AM/FM radio my Dad had given me. Somehow, I had it tuned to KJAZ, 92.7 I believe it was, emanating from Alameda.

Suddenly, I heard this tune. It was called “The Inflated Tear.” It was by a great artist who, at the time was known as Roland Kirk. The tune starts with what sounds like two tenor saxophones blowing a longing train whistle ode deep inside an echo chamber. The riff then segues into a lonesome, New Orleans-type funeral dirge. In that mournful expression of a soul passing, I was awakened to a new sensibility.

Soon after I started drinking it all in. My buddies and I made jaunts to the Both/And Jazz Club in San Francisco. Of course, we saw Roland Kirk there. He was blind and could play up to four wind instruments simultaneously. He was also a practitioner of circular breathing where he could hold one note for minutes without visibly drawing a breath.

I remember calling the Both/And in anticipation of seeing and hearing the great Thelonius Monk there. The voice at the other end of the phone was not impressed by my youthful exuberance.


“Hi. Is Thelonius Monk playing there tonight?”

“Thelonius Monk is working here tonight,” said the voice gruffly. I got hip real quick!

Though I saw Miles Davis live I totally missed John Coltrane. I did, however, see his widow, Alice.

The Coltranes, first John and then Alice, explored the connections between Eastern religions and philosophies and jazz.

John Coltrane passed in 1967 right about the time I was getting started as a listener. Alice released an album in 1970 called “Journey Into Satchidananda.” It is still a favorite of mine.

After the album’s release Alice Coltrane brought her group to perform at the Berkeley Jazz Festival. In those days the Berkeley Jazz Festival was held in the spring at the Greek Theater. You never knew what kind of weather one would get at the Greek. That year it was chilly and windy when the Coltrane group took the stage.

For those of you who don’t know, Alice played piano, organ and acoustic harp. That night they rolled out a grand piano and harp for her. She had a stellar group consisting of Archie Shepp and Frank Lowe on saxophones, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Clifford Jarvis on drums.

The group started playing what sounded like kind of a warmup number. But, unfortunately it was not to be. After a few bars, Ms. Coltrane stopped the music and said to the audience, “Ladies and gentleman, we are not going to be able to play for you tonight. The elements are not allowing us to play in tune.” That was it. They left the stage. We were kind of bummed.

As fate would have it, the night was not lost. A very healthy looking Esther Phillips closed the show with a very over the top rhythm and blues set that had the audience dancing whoopin’ and a-hollerin’ ‘til she took expertly took us home. It was still a great night.

Alice Coltrane retreated from public performances in the late 1970s. She established an ashram in Southern California and continued to record her own style of meditative music.

In 2006, the San Francisco Jazz Festival announced that Alice Coltrane would be making a rare appearance on Nov. 4 of that year. She would be appearing with her son Ravi, the spitting image of John, on saxophone, double bassist Charlie Haden and Roy Haynes on drums.

I copped a couple of tickets and offered one to my spiritual advisor. He accepted and we headed for some San Francisco history. First of all, drummer Roy Haynes was all of 81 years old the night of the concert. He actually played with John Coltrane back in 1963. I’ve never seen a more youthful version of 81 years of age. There was not a visible wrinkle on Mr. Haynes.

Charlie Haden of the double bass is a highly esteemed player who in 1971, while on tour in Portugal, dedicated a performance of his Song For Che to the anticolonialist revolutionaries in the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau. The following day he was arrested by the Portuguese Secret Police, though promptly released when the American cultural attaché intervened.

The concert itself was a sold out embodiment of artistic virtuosity. Ravi Coltrane is a great melodic, technical player. His playing at times recalled his dad’s mastery of the ballad form. Roy Haynes was simply an amazing physical specimen on drums as well. He anchored the unit along with Mr. Haden and the pulse of the evening was never weak.

Ms. Alice Coltrane was 69 years old at the time of the concert. She played with all the fire and passion of John Coltrane, rocking Ray Charles-like in her posture as she played the organ. There was an intensity that was very other worldly. The 35 year wait was definitely worth it. Eight and a half weeks later Alice Coltrane left this plane. She died of respiratory failure on Jan. 12, 2007. I was flabbergasted that my desire to see her perform had come to fruition so precisely through the portals of time and space.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Monday, Oct. 5

Monday, Oct. 5. Will Siegal & Friends. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2233 or .

Thursday, Oct. 8

Open mike night at the Blue Wing, 6 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2233 or .

Saturday, Oct. 10

Hilltop Recovery’s Inaugural Musicians Picnic w/Bill Noteman & The Rockets, The Blue Collar Band, Without A Net, The Bob Keys Band and Eareverence. 10 a.m. Moose Lodge at Highway 53 and Highway 20 in Clearlake Oaks. Information: 707-987-9972.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at .






I was once a much healthier person. I was a marathon runner and a weight lifter. I ate very healthily and if you were to see pictures of me from that era I was quite thin and in great shape. Nowadays if you see me running you better look out, because shortly there will be a werewolf bounding up in hot pursuit.

I haven’t noticed any mysterious deaths that could be attributed to werewolves here in the county, but they might be subsisting off of deer and the kills are being blamed on cougars. We’re lucky here in America to only have werewolves; according to my Asian horror encyclopedia, Japan also has werecats and werebears.

Even though I’m not in the shape I once was, some of the credit for me being able to escape the werewolves is that I try to eat a lot of low fat or no fat foods. One example is that I have lots of jams and jellies in my refrigerator at home. Not only are they no fat, but they provide diversity for my daughter’s school lunches instead of just lunch meat and cheese on bread everyday. I have to keep her in shape to be able to outrun the werewolves, too.

Another reason that I like jam is that it is an almost magical food to me. It’s a mixture of fruit juices and sugar that, through some sort of magic spell, transforms into a solid. It’s the magic of the pectin in the fruit cells. Just how that happens I’ll describe a little later.

The pectin that causes jams and jellies to be a solid is a soluble dietary fiber that has been found to lower blood cholesterol. Pectin is also an intestinal “lubricant” and is frequently used to cure both constipation and diarrhea. Up until recently pectin was a main ingredient in over-the-counter intestinal medications.

But what is the difference between jams, jellies and preserves? Is it just local dialect, or are there differences in the recipes, production, and products? There are also many different types of jellies, jams, and preserves made with meat, of which duck confit is the most familiar. Today we’ll just focus on those made with fruit.

Jelly is a “clear” fruit juice that either sets naturally or with the addition of pectin or occasionally gelatin. Jam is a jelly with the addition of fruit pulp, which is normally pureed or mashed. Preserves are typically a jam or jelly with whole or chunks of fruit. “Conserves” hold no legal definition but the term is occasionally used in the place of “preserves” but can include multiple different fruits, nuts, and other additions. Marmalade is jelly with the addition of fruit peels. Most marmalades are made with citrus fruits of all varieties. Citrus peels are very high in pectin.

And to add to your international food education, in the UK the word “jelly” actually refers to a gelatin dessert or what we call jello. The French word “gelee” is the root for jelly. The Greek word for the tomato is “Lycopersicum” and translates to “wolf’s peach.” The root word for pectin means “congealed.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration actually considers jams and preserves the same, but differentiates them from jelly. The United States Department of Agriculture requires that 45 percent of a jelly or jam be fruit.


The United States makes about one billion pounds of fruit spreads per year and the average American eats over two pounds of it in that same year. Your average child will eat 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the time they graduate high school.

Nobody knows the true origin of jellies but it is believed they originated in the Middle East. This makes sense because they had sugar cane to work with and would be able to preserve their fruit for long term use. European soldiers returning from the Crusades brought jellies and jams home with them. Oddly enough, the oldest book known to man, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” which also originates from the Middle East, has a primary character named Enkidu who is a “man-beast.” Could this just be a coincidence? Did the crusaders bring lycanthropes to Europe from Jerusalem? You will have to judge for yourself.

There are several methods used in the making of jams, but since I’m not actually skilled in doing it I won’t go into recipes or describe how to make it. I’d probably leave out a very small but vital step and you’d wind up with strawberries all over your ceiling. The basic process comes from heating fruit which releases the pectin from the cells. The pectin binds together, trapping the juice and any fruit pulp in the matrix. There are “freezer jams” and no-cook type processes, but they aren’t as common or generally as successful as the heating method.

I have known Sabine Hue De La Roche for many years, and she has become a jam and jelly maker here in the county that is becoming quite popular. I have six jars of her different preserves in my refrigerator right now because my family likes them so much, and you know I am very interested in supporting local businesses.

She has a red bell pepper jam that is fantastic on a bagel with cream cheese, among its many other uses. There is also yellow bell pepper jam that has a little kick, and an orange bell pepper jam that has a real heat to it. She also makes pear, pear/cranberry, pear/rhubarb, plum, cherry/plum, peach, blackberry, pumpkin and, my personal favorite, kiwi/banana flavor.

I use the Hue De La Roche Farms jellies and jams in some unorthodox manners also, but I’m sure you were expecting something like that from me. I use them on various meats for braising, basting, even marinating in them. If you should want to experiment with them just keep in mind that straight jelly can and will burn easily due to the sugar content.

Dinner on a recent evening was chicken breasts with a red bell pepper jam, sour cream and garlic sauce. It was very good, although the mashed plantains as the side dish wasn’t as popular. I’ve also marinated beef in the red pepper jam mixed with soy sauce to make beef jerky, which was simply delicious.

You can purchase her jellies and jams at the High Valley Wines and Steele Winery tasting rooms, Nylander’s Red and White in Clearlake Oaks, and Seely Produce stand in Upper Lake. She can also be found at farmers markets around the lake. On Tuesdays, Kelseyville Lumber in Kelseyville; on Thursdays, Coyote Valley (Middletown), behind Hardester’s; Fridays, Redbud Park, Clearlake; and Saturdays: Steel Winery, Farmers Finest.

If you’re from out of the area, Sabine does ship. You can contact her for her full product line and pricing by sending an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or writing to The Hue De Laroque Farm, P.O. Box 821, Clearlake Oaks, CA 95423.


I don’t think I have to tell you, but if you eat too many fatty foods you can really do some shape shifting in your own way. So, eat more jam and keep the werewolf at bay.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, .

Many California families depend on Medi-Cal to pay for long-term residential skilled nursing care, and also for "medically necessary" services; that includes, but is not limited to, hospitalization, nursing home care, prescription drugs, physician's visits, x-ray and laboratory tests, adult day health care, prosthetic and orthopedic devices, hearing aids, some dental care, hearing aids, home health care services, and some medical equipment.

Who is eligible for Medi-Cal? Becoming eligible is a two-step process: First, one must be linked to Medi-Cal; and, second, one must not exceed Medi-Cal’s strict resource limitations.

How is one linked? The following three classes of persons are linked to Medi-Cal: “seniors,” “persons receiving SSI benefits” and “disabled persons.” Seniors, persons 65 years or older, are automatically linked, as are persons receiving any monthly SSI payments, regardless of age. Lastly, “disabled persons” are persons found to be disabled under Social Security standards. Usually a Social Security Administration disability hearing is used to establish disability, but sometimes the Department of Social Services may use its own physicians.

How much may one own? One cannot own more than a very limited dollar amount of available, countable resources (assets). That threshold is presently $2,000 for an individual, and $3,000 for a family. Countable resources do not include exempt assets, such as a primary residence, personal property (unlimited value), business assets (a time-limited exemption), musical instruments, marriage rings, a vehicle (one per family), a burial plot, and retirement accounts (provided they are paying required minimum distributions if the participant is age 70 ½ or older).

In the case of a couple, where one spouse is receiving Medi-Cal for residential skilled nursing care, the stay-at-home well spouse (i.e., so-called “community spouse”) is entitled to retain further (otherwise countable) resources equal to the so-called “Community Spouse Resource Allowance” (CSRA) – currently around $110,000 (2009). The CSRA is most commonly used to shelter cash and investment accounts and helps to provide the stay-at-home (well) spouse with an income stream on which to continue to live at home.

How does one deal with excess assets? To qualify, many persons convert their excess available, countable – nonexempt assets into exempt assets, gift assets, spend-down other countable resources on necessities (although any purchase for fair value received counts for spend down); or they make the assets non-available (by placing it up for sale, e.g., listing real property with a broker).

This can become complicated when a person with dementia is involved. Often, court approval to gift assets between spouses is necessary. Furthermore, and very importantly, gifting of countable resources done within Medi-Cal’s so-called “look-back” period will create periods of ineligibility. The current look-back period is thirty-six months for gifts made directly between persons and sixty-months for gifts made from a trust.

Next is determining one’s share of cost – i.e., how much one must pay before Medi-Cal (a payor of last resort) pays. For persons living in residential skilled nursing facilities, all income, except a $35 a month allowance goes to pay share of cost. There is an exception when the stay-at-home spouse receives less than the so-called “Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance” (‘MMMNA’), currently around $2,700/month, in which case the shortfall may be deducted from the incapacitated spouse’s income (i.e., before paying share of cost) to bring the well spouse’s income up to MMMNA, so far as possible.

After the Medi-Cal recipient dies, the Estate Recovery Unit must be notified, and the State has 90 days to “bill” for what Medi-Cal paid-out. Interestingly, medical services received before age 55 years of age are not subject to recovery. That exception, however, does not apply to skilled nursing home services.

Lastly, Medi-Cal applications involve stringent scrutiny. All bank statements need to be submitted going back three months before application, as well as ‘back-up’ documents to entries such as ‘income’ deposits, or payments when spend-down is involved. Also, documents such as birth certificate, driver’s license and social security cards must be provided.

Dennis A. Fordham, attorney (LL.M. tax studies), is a State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law. His office is at 55 1st St., Lakeport, California. Dennis can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 707-263-3235.

Upcoming Calendar

07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

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