Government

Supervisors Adopt County Budget Focusing on Vulnerable

County Administration Center

The County Board of Supervisors adopted a budget Tuesday for fiscal year 2019-2020 that underscores its commitment to helping the region’s most vulnerable residents. The $6.25 billion includes more than $100 million in new spending for residents struggling to get by in the region.

Increased funding will go toward services for people with mental health or substance use disorders, those experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, address a lack of affordable housing, strengthen the County’s public health response, and assist children and families in the foster care system.

The recommended fiscal year budget was presented to the Board on June 10. Supervisors approved additional spending on Tuesday, adding $41.5 million to the budget.

As a result, the new budget will provide an additional 441 staff positions over the current fiscal year. Total staffing will come to 18,024.5, with 366 new positions slated for the Health and Human Services Agency.

Many of those new hires will be made up of social workers, nurses, mental health clinicians, housing and aging specialists.

“We’re doing more to do make a lasting impact on public safety, public health and the quality of life in communities,” said Board Chair Dianne Jacob. “But we’re not losing sight of the fiscal discipline that has positioned us to be able to respond to these challenges.”

“Truly this is a sound budget and it is based on realistic forecasts of state and federal revenue,” said Chief Administrative Office Helen Robbins-Meyer. “If and when the economy dips we have sufficient resources to make necessary adjustments through normal attrition but in the meantime, we are able to draw down state revenue that allows us to address pressing needs in the areas of mental health, child welfare and public heath while also maintaining our commitment to public safety, roads, parks and the many other programs that make San Diego County a great place to live.”

Overall, the Health and Human Services Agency will experience a $150.5 million increase over the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The new plan includes adding $54.7 million to Behavioral Health Services, which covers mental health and substance abuse, bringing its annual budget to $712.9 million.

The increase will support 143 new Behavioral Health positions and put an additional $29.7 million into outpatient behavioral health services, including expanding crisis stabilization services. It will fund 70 Psychiatric Emergency Response Teams and expand services for residents with severe mental illness who rotate in and out of hospitals. The budget will also include crisis stabilization centers for 24/7 walk-in mental health and substance use disorder services. The centers will allow PERT and law enforcement drop-offs as an alternative to emergency rooms and jail.

Another $12.5 million will provide 177 additional psychiatric beds for those needing long-term care. An extra $17.2 million will go to the No Place Like Home program for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness who need mental health services.

San Diegans will get continued access to Drug Medi-Cal systems for treatment of substance use disorder after the County’s investment tripled last year from $54.6 million to $179.6 million annually. The number of people treated is expected to jump 30% over three years. Substance use disorder often exacerbates mental illness, homelessness and criminal behavior.

The County added $12.4 million to current housing efforts and doubled the original $25 million housing trust fund to $50 million to create affordable housing for homeless families and veterans, older adults with extremely low incomes, those with special needs and others at risk for homelessness. The full $50 million trust fund could result in as many as 1,800 affordable units. Development of four excess County properties will create an additional 700-plus affordable units in coming years.

During Tuesday’s Board meeting, Supervisors also voted to invest $10 million in a new housing initiative called Tip the Scale. The funding will provide transitional housing for youth, recuperative care and temporary housing for those experiencing homelessness, and temporary shelter for sex-trafficking victims.

In a bid to increase lower-cost housing in the unincorporated areas, the County has begun waiving various fees for homeowners who want to build granny flats, also known as accessory dwelling units. Now steps are underway to develop pre-approved building plans to further lower construction costs.

Child Welfare Services will see another $8.0 million to support 125 new positions to protect children, strengthen families, and support child abuse investigations. The funding will help carry out recommendations brought forward by the new Child and Family Strengthening Advisory Board. The increase includes social worker training to reduce family violence and a pilot ridesharing project to help families with visitation.

The budget will also advance services for Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, Public Health Services will add 27 positions to help identify emerging trends and monitor infectious diseases such as measles.

In the area of juvenile justice reform, the County will create two new Achievement Centers for young people at risk of returning to juvenile hall. Continued funding for the recreational program Safe Destination Nights will keep 8,000 teens off the streets in the critical evening hours.

Continuing to fund the Fresh Start program will help adults with criminal records overcome barriers to success. The program can reduce felony convictions to misdemeanors, dismiss or expunge criminal records, and offer Certificates of Rehabilitation.

Sustainability remains a high priority. The County is exploring energy options such as community choice energy. The County will continue implementing its Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gases, including planting 3,500 trees on public lands and adding 500 acres of open space to the 41,000 acres already preserved.

The budget includes $95.2 million for capital projects with funding going toward new Live Well Centers, parks, trails, a fire station and more. Partial funding includes the five-year renovation project for the historic County Administration Center, which kicked off in April.

The new fiscal year budget takes effect July 1.

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