January 21, 2022
The last two years have been challenging. They serve as a stark reminder that time is precious, that we should spend as much time as we can with our friends and family, and that we should serve and be kind to one another. I’m excited for what the future has in store and look forward to 2022! Here are just some of the issues and topics that I’m focused on as a County Supervisor going into the new year.
We are fortunate to live in such a safe community thanks to our brave men and women who protect us. I’m proud to say that while much of the nation experienced a ‘Defund the Police’ movement, we have increased our public safety budget in North County.
I believe we need to support law enforcement with the tools and resources they need to do their job, and work hand in hand to protect our communities.
Also, we initiated action to reduce jail recidivism in North County through expansion of the Veterans Moving Forward Program. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to tour the Vista Jail, specifically the veterans ward. The Veterans Moving Forward program provides veterans in-custody treatment and services so that once their time is up they can go back into the community and contribute to society. I’m pleased to say we have expanded this program and are seeing more and more success stories, like Ricardo Davis.
San Diego is home to one of the largest veteran communities in the Country and I believe we need to do all we can to help them.
We’ve learned a lot over the past two years, including the limits of healthcare, especially to our rural San Diego County communities. There are many homebound seniors who struggle to get the proper care they need and we are taking steps to bring services to them.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the County began to provide COVID-19 related services in the unincorporated communities, including COVID-19 tests, COVID-19 vaccinations, and eventually expanded to offer flu vaccinations. Because of the success, I introduced a Board letter to expand this effort to help reach our rural communities with more services and I’m pleased to say it passed. Soon we will be able to connect patients to primary care, conduct post-hospital visits, and expand public health education.
Also, County staff will conduct more home visits focused on reducing falls in the home and providing hospice care. We call it “Community Paramedicine”. By delivering services to those hard-to-reach places, we can eliminate the need to drive or transport patients via ambulance, cut down on hospital readmissions, and most importantly, save lives. I’ll keep you updated with the effort and hopefully, soon we will be able to provide these services to those who need them!
Behavioral health is a major issue that continues to grow during the pandemic. We’ve all seen people on the side of the street, or know of friends or family members in crisis in need of help and, unfortunately, North County was under-resourced. I’m pleased to say over the past three years we’ve made a major strides in behavioral health resources, allocating $140 million in new projects.
A few months ago I was part of a ribbon-cutting for the new Vista Crisis Stabilization Unit. This is a place open to family members, law enforcement, and others can take those suffering from a mental health episode to be evaluated. The North County location will save time, resources and get help much faster to an individual. Think of it as an urgent care for those suffering a mental crisis.
Family Justice Center
Over the last year, District Attorney Summer Stephan and I worked in partnership to bring a unique, life saving center to North County called a Family Justice Center. Located in San Marcos, the Family Justice Center is safe haven for those suffering from domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. Victims and their children can come to the center anytime and be provided wraparound services including therapists, nurses, attorneys, prosecutors, advocates, immigration attorneys, law enforcement, and other social service providers, free of charge. The center is under construction and set open Spring, 2022.
Many victims of domestic violence don’t have anywhere to turn and continue to suffer from violence. The Family Justice Center will end the cycle and empower them to break free of their abusers, provide a safe haven with services to get victims and families back on their feet, free of abuse. We are excited for this center to open and I will keep you updated with its progression. The devastating reality is over 10 million Americans suffer from domestic violence a year; we must do all we can to help those victims. The Family Justice Center will save lives.
Fire Safety Improvements
We have been fortunate in San Diego to avoid major wildfires over the past few years, but we know risk in this region is constant. That is why we have made major improvements to evacuation routes and pre-fire strategies. Prevention is key, and we recently increased the frequency of defensible space inspections, enhanced pre-fire vegetation management, and improved pre-fire emergency planning with a greater emphasis on technology and GIS mapping.
Also, we have expanded the Heli-Hydrant program. A Heli-Hydrant is a pilot-controlled, remotely activated, 12-foot by 5-foot deep open tank that is only filled when needed. Heli-Hydrants are similar to an above-ground swimming pool that can be filled with approximately 5,000 gallons of water in 6 minutes. It will allow a firefighting helicopter to fill its water tank within a matter of seconds and return to the fire quickly.
Moving Nuclear Waste
It is critical for our community, our state, and our country to find a solution for spent nuclear fuel. While the spent fuel at SONGS is safely stored, the intention has always been for a permanent geologic repository so the land, where the generating station sits can be fully restored and returned to the Navy. For the past 2 ½ years I have been a member of the SONGS’s Community Engagement Panel, participating in quarterly meetings with the public. I am also a participating member of Congressman Mike Levin’s SONGS Taskforce.
Last year, the Board of Supervisors unanimously supported participation in a new coalition named Action for Spent Fuel Solutions Now that provides an opportunity for stakeholders, including local governments, business and labor leaders, Native American leaders, environmental groups, and community members to join forces and make offsite spent fuel storage and disposal a priority.
This is a major step to protect our region and find a solution for SONGS. I will keep you updated with our efforts.
Surf’s up! Last year the Board of Supervisors approved a new rapid water quality testing technology for our beaches. This is a really exciting step for our beach communities.
A few years ago the testing wait time was 72-96 hours, and our current time of 18-24 hours will drop to just a few hours. This will get results that will protect public health within hours. San Diego County will be the first in the nation to have this system that will rapidly test beach water samples. Clean water is essential for the health of San Diegans and all who visit our beaches.
San Luis Rey River Park
I am thrilled about the progress we are making with the San Luis Rey River Park. If you’re unfamiliar with it, this is a master plan which will include two major park sites at each end, and a multi-use trail that will go from I-15 to Oceanside.
The two park sites are located at the east and west ends, in Fallbrook and Bonsall, but this will be a wonderful asset for all of North County to use. We are hoping to start groundbreaking later this year!
Helping Our Businesses
We all know how hard it’s been for our business community over the past two years. While, I’ve tried to be the common-sense Supervisor finding a balance between saving lives, protecting the most vulnerable, and allowing businesses to open, businesses are still struggling.
We continue to help our businesses in North County, as we recently allocated about $3 million in stimulus funding to help with COVID related expenses, with another $3 million still to be allocated on the latest round. These grants are for small businesses and nonprofits in District 5. I will continue to look at ways we can help our small business community!
My office is here to serve. We have an experienced, responsive District 5 team that’s here to help.
You can contact me at Jim.Desmond@sdcounty.ca.gov.
Supervisor Jim Desmond | 1600 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA 92101