By Miriam Raftery
June 27, 2018 (San Diego) – San Diego’s County Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved a budget of over $6 billion budget for the new fiscal year starting July 1st, an increase of 8.4 percent over last year.
Priorities for the increased funding including helping the homeless and those with substance abuse or mental health issues. In addition, funds have been allocated to address the affordable housing crisis, help those leaving the criminal justice system to reduce recidivism, enhancing quality of life in neighborhoods and protecting natural resources.
The budget creates 120 new jobs and allots over $175 million to meet needs of vulnerable residents including those at risk of becoming homeless as well as homeless already on the streets.
Funds for drug and alcohol treatment program will triple, and $650 million will go toward behavioral health services. Another million dollars will be spent on domestic violence response teams and mobile trauma services, as well as continuing funding for Project One for All, a program that has housed and treated over 600 homeless people with severe mental illness.
The budget will fund 50 Psychiatric Emergency Response Teams and the County’s Whole Person Wellness program which aims to help 1,000 homeless Medi-Cal patients who cycle in and out of emergency rooms.
The County will continue providing public health, behavioral health and self-sufficiency services at the City of San Diego’s three tent shelters. The budget also calls for 12 additional public health nurses to address public health priorities.
Every year, 80,000 adults are booked into the County jails, and on any given day about a third of the population in custody receives mental health care. The budget will add mental health clinicians and discharge planners to the jails so those leaving the system have a better chance to succeed in the community.
Probation will see nearly $3 million for additional re-entry services. The department will issue transit passes to probationers so they can get to work or locations with needed services. Eight new staff positions will also help the over-burdened Public Defender’s Office.
The budget also provides an additional $7.6 million for an array of services for youths including mentoring, family therapy and help finding work. More kids in the juvenile justice system will get a chance to join the Alternatives to Detention program.
To address the affordable housing crisis, the County will use the $25 million Innovative Housing Trust Fund approved last year as well as surplus County property to develop homes for seniors, veterans and other vulnerable people. This is expected to create 400 to 600 new affordable housing units for low-income residents or people with special needs.
The plan sets aside funds to begin updating 15 community plans in the unincorporated area to expand housing options for residents of all income levels. Proposed waivers to some general plan requirements have drawn opposition, though, over impacts of large-scale housing developments proposed in some unincorporated areas due to concerns over impacts on traffic, schools and natural resources.
The County will also cut costs and permit processing times to boost housing stock for middle-income households.
In the unincorporated area, residents will see new libraries, additional sidewalks and repairs to 180 miles of roads. New or improved fire stations will guard against the ongoing threat of wildfires in the backcountry, and more parks and trails will give all residents more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Another 500 acres of open space will help preserve the region’s natural beauty.