Helping Children, the Homeless and Mentally Ill — Top Priorities in New County Budget

Changing lives for the better – especially the most vulnerable among us – is a top priority for the County of San Diego as it prepares a new budget for the next fiscal year.

In addition to new and expanded services for residents, the County’s new budget places a special emphasis on children and youth in crisis, the seriously mentally ill who are chronically homeless, and focuses on fostering self-sufficiency for those who depend on help from Medi-Cal, CalFresh and CalWORKS.

The County will enter into the second year of an ambitious five-year plan to resurface roads throughout the region. New libraries open in Alpine and Imperial Beach this year and more are in the works. In addition, the new budget calls for expanding paramedic firefighter services in the region’s backcountry and the activation of a third firefighting helicopter.

The County’s $5.35 billion recommended budget is not only balanced but continues the County’s reputation for fiscal responsibility. The Fiscal Year 2016-2018 Recommended Operational Plan was presented to the County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, May 3. It outlines plans for Fiscal Year 2016-2017 which starts July 1 as well a preliminary plan for Fiscal Year 2017-2018.

About 80 percent of the Recommended Budget comes from outside agencies to support services delivered by the County. This includes State and federal funding and revenue from local cities that contract with the County for services.

The remaining funding, known as General Purpose Revenue, comes primarily from property taxes. The Board of Supervisors has discretion on how it is spent.  This recommended budget includes an increase of $47.5 million, or 4.4 percent, in General Purpose Revenue from Fiscal Year 2015–2016 for a total of $1.13 billion.

Here are some highlights.

Expanded mental health and substance abuse programs:

  • $500.6 million for Behavioral Health Services, an increase of $59.1 million from fiscal year 2015 – 2016.
  • Priorities address needs identified by stakeholders, such as Project One for All, a key initiative to provide comprehensive services through a regional partnership for homeless individuals who are severely mentally ill.
  • Additional highlights include:
            —Expansion of Psychiatric Emergency Response Teams (PERT)
    —Increase in support services for Full Service Partnerships, programs that provide intensive outpatient services to individuals with serious mental health disorders, who have no support system and are at risk of homelessness, jail or institutionalization.
            —Permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals with serious behavioral health conditions.
            —Expansion of hospital-based crisis stabilization services which provide intensive mental health crisis services to individuals who otherwise might have lengthy waits in medical emergency rooms and/or be unnecessarily hospitalized. These individuals include repetitive and high users of emergency and inpatient psychiatric services.
    Expansion of mental health services for underserved communities and populations.

Increased Self-Sufficiency services:

  • Self-Sufficiency Services has a recommended budget of $539.5 million, an increase of $9 million.
  • Self-sufficiency programs serve almost one million county residents and include cash assistance, food assistance, employment services and health care services. The largest programs are Medi-Cal, CalFresh and CalWORKS.
  • Staff and contracted services are being added to address:
            —Expanded Medi-Cal health insurance for all children from low-income families
            —Increased support for CalWORKS recipients to help them become self-sufficient

An increase of $9.8 million for Child Welfare Services, for an overall recommended budget of $354 million:

  • Increased support for Foster and Relative Caregiver Recruitment, Retention and Support Program.
  • Expansion of services in the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children Program to help young victims of human trafficking.
  • Continued support for prevention and family strengthening services for children in foster care to improve child well-being as a part of the California Well-Being Demonstration Project. This includes family visit coaching to facilitate reunification in addition to providing supportive educational liaisons to improve school outcomes for children in foster care.

An increase of about 2.5 percent for Public Safety, for an overall recommended budget of $1.7 billion:

  • Provide law enforcement, criminal justice and emergency services. Approximately 928,000 people in nine contract cities and the unincorporated areas receive law enforcement services from the Sheriff’s Department.
  • Staff to bolster security at the new State courthouse opening this year, to enhance assessment of people in jail awaiting arraignment and sentencing, and to support mental health services in the jail.
  • Provide fire protection and emergency medical services in rural communities, including expanded paramedic firefighter service.
  • Provide Sheriff’s staff for a third firefighting helicopter.

More than $56.9 million in road improvements in the county’s unincorporated areas, including:

  • $21.3 million for maintaining roads in the unincorporated area for repaving, repairing culverts, guardrails and slurry sealing roads
  • $13.3 million for road reconstruction and improvements
  • $1.2 million for new sidewalks and pathways
  • $0.2 million for traffic signal improvements
  • $4.1 million in intersection improvements
  • $1.8 million for drainage improvements
  • $14.9 million to ensure County-maintained bridges remain structurally sound

Increased access to community programs and resources at libraries:

  • $7.0 million for the expansion of the 4S Ranch Library
  • $1.3 million to acquire land to replace the Lakeside Library
  • $1.0 million increase for library materials budget
  • New libraries are scheduled to open this fiscal year in Alpine and Imperial Beach, and another branch is being constructed in Borrego Springs on a site which will also include a Sheriff substation and park (projects were funded in previous budgets).

New park land and public facilities:

  • $15.9 million to begin replacing Animal Services’ aging animal care facility in Bonita
  • $10.0 million for the Department of Parks and Recreation to acquire more open space
  • $1.0 million for Parks and Recreation’s Heritage Tree Preservation program
  • $1.0 million for improvements at Lindo Lake  
  • $0.3 million for a right of way trail at San Luis Rey River Park at State Route 76 

The County’s budget reflects a commitment to using taxpayer dollars wisely, which includes maintaining healthy reserves and a AAA credit rating. The budget went before the County Board of Supervisors May 3. Public hearings will begin June 13 and budget deliberations are scheduled for June 28. Final adoption of the plan is scheduled for Aug. 2.

See the full recommended operation plan.

Tracy DeFore is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact