Vice Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Terra Lawson-Remer speaks at a press conference on June 20 regarding a proposal to formally declare a state of emergency related to the transboundary sewage pollution crisis. Photo courtesy of Board of Supervisors Media Staff.

After several years of upheaval in our community, nation, and the world, many of us
have thankfully started to return to a “new normal.”

The worst of the pandemic is over, inflation strain is easing, and we have returned to enjoying everything our beautiful county has to offer.

But while many of us have moved forward, it’s important that we don’t lose sight that
many of us are still bouncing back, or know those who are.

Housing costs remain high

Housing costs remain high, we continue to see increasing rates of mental health crises and addiction, and many working families are struggling.

As the agency with primary responsibility for health and human services programs in our region, it’s the County of San Diego’s responsibility to help address these challenges to lift up all of our residents.

On June 27, I joined my colleagues to cast a bipartisan vote approving a county budget
that prioritizes community investment, equity, and sustainability.

With commitments to fight homelessness, direct those with mental health and substance use disorders toward better care, protect our beaches and coastline, and invest in core community services, this $8.11 billion investment plan will strengthen our communities and infrastructure.

Making the county more equitable

Voters put me in this job two years ago to change county government by making it
more equitable, responsive, and representative.

For decades, our county elected leadership ducked responsibility and refused to step-up to tackle the challenges of our region.

Those decades of neglect have left us with a lot of work to do.

This new budget is about putting our values of service into action — by funding positions and making investments so the county can actually do that work.

Millions for affordable housing

We’re hiring people to expand social service programs to help our most vulnerable
populations, and investing in critical infrastructure like roads, public parks, and
affordable housing.

For the first time ever, more than $40 million is earmarked to increase affordable
housing and provide services to prevent homelessness and provide housing stability for
families, and especially for populations that are more likely to experience
homelessness, such as seniors and the LGBTQIA+ youth.

With rising rates of mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse, the County has made an
unprecedented bold move, directing nearly $740 million toward mental health and
substance use disorder treatment, including funding for Mobile Crisis Response Teams,
41 additional long-term beds for inpatient mental health care, and outpatient and
residential substance use disorder services.

And because the illegal fentanyl and opioid crisis continues to harm our communities, more than $7 million has been set aside to address opioid addiction.

Additional staff for health, human services

This year’s budget also invests in working families.

More than $164 million will support additional staff across all Health and Human Services departments to support safety net programs like CalWORKs, CalFresh, and Medi-Cal. It helps Seniors age in place by allowing higher wages to be paid to In-Home Supportive Services caregivers, increasing the pool of people who can care for our seniors in their own homes as they age.

And it will provide additional funds to support foster youth and young people that are
transitioning out of the foster care system.

Since supporting our communities is the most important investment we can make, we
must not neglect safeguarding our beautiful environment and fighting climate change.

Protecting beaches, coastlines

Our beaches and coastlines are some of our most vital regional assets, and protecting
them has been one of my top priorities as your Supervisor.

With an investment of $52 million dollars the county will build and improve stormwater infrastructure to protect our beautiful beaches and coastlines.

The budget also provides significant funding to continue our efforts to build resilience in
the face of a changing climate.

Funding has been earmarked to continue work on our Regional Decarbonization Framework to help communities move our region toward zero-carbon emissions, design a new Zero Carbon Portfolio Plan that aims for a 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in County facilities by 2030, and plant more than 5,000 trees.

Diverse communities

We are a region of diverse and proud communities, and this budget was built to support
and uplift them.

As the county’s motto says, “The noblest motive is the public good,” and we will continue to work hard to uphold and nurture our communities, our residents, and our environment.

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Terra Lawson-Remer is a San Diego County Supervisor whose district represents Coronado.