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Facility Used to Treat the Mentally Ill Opens in Ventura

A facility that treats the criminally insane has opened on Ventura’s West end to a storm of controversy.

It’s opening at 40 West Santa Clara St. has outraged the nearby neighborhood and businesses.

The tension reached a boiling point Monday when a scuffle broke out between one of the neighbors and someone who was associated with the facility.

The facility treats the mentally insane. It opened in the beginning of November. MHM Services of California is operating this Forensic Conditional Release Program, also known as CONREP.

The state-funded program provides services for the criminally insane. The California Department of State Hospital describes CONREP on its website as an out-patient facility serving clients who typically have severe mental disorders. Eighty-five percent of their patients have committed violent felonies. Most have been released from a State Mental Hospital under guidelines that they continue treatment at a CONREP facility.

One of CONREP of Ventura’s best known patients may be David Attias. He was found criminally insane after intentionally running down and killing four people in Isla Vita.

The idea of having the criminally insane frequenting their neighborhood does not sit well with those who live nearby.

“Our concern is not that they don’t deserve compassion, not that they don’t deserve understanding, but more to the point that if they fall off the wagon being these kind of people that we could end up with a very difficult and dangerous time on our hands,” said Christopher Judges, who lives across the street.

“If the patients wander over to this apartment complex and I see one of them, it may not go well. I will ask them nicely to leave but it may not go well from there, because they are not mentally stable people,” said Brian Hassenflug, who lives across the street from the facility.

That is exactly what happened on Monday afternoon, coverage of this story turned violent as someone who has been inside the CONREP building approached our NewsChannel 3 reporter while she was speaking with Brian Hassenflug. The man took several photos and videotaped our reporter, and then tried to move in closer. This is when Hassenflug reacted.

NewsChannel 3’s cameras started rolling as Hassenflug reacted to the man who had approached our reporter. The video shows Hassenflug pushing the man to the ground. It then shows a man in a security uniform on his cell phone, but making no effort to break up the fight. The fight ended before Ventura police arrived. The man who approached our reporter was escorted back into the CONREP facility.

The Ventura Police Department did not charge anyone in the scuffle.

NewsChannel 3 reached out to the people working at the facility, but they refused to answer any questions and escorted our reporter away from the building with security guards.

The biggest concern for neighbors is the criminally insane patients interacting with the children in the neighborhood.

“We have children here, we have children going by, we are next to places that children go around all the time. It is very important that they be removed immediately from here,” said Judges.

“They shouldn’t even be in any area where there is children, or families or even businesses. They should be in more of an industrial area,” said Hassenflug.

Ventura’s Community Development Director Jeffery Lambert agrees. He say’s the zoning clearance was issued to the CONREP facility in error, and last week Lambert notified the facility that it cannot operate downtown.

“My staff made a mistake and I corrected it. I have the authority as the CD director to make that decision and I have determined they don’t belong there, without going through this discretionary conditional-use permit process,” said Lambert.

CONREP has appealed the city’s decision, and at this point is refusing to move.

In addition to the city asking CONREP to stop operating, the landlord of the building has also served them with an eviction notice.

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