San Diego County supervisors are considering a $2.76 billion health, homelessness and social services spending plan that would add new behavioral health services, fund homeless shelters and expand social services. affordable housing.
Spending by the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency makes up the largest portion of the county’s proposed $7.15 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1.
The agency would see a slight drop in spending over the next year, with a 1.1% drop from $2.84 billion to $2.76 billion, due to the elimination of one-time related expenses. to COVID-19, according to budget figures presented by the Director of Health and Social Services. Nick Machione.
Programs that would see funding cuts from last year include public health services, housing and community development services, and aging and independent living services, as well as administrative support.
Although housing and community development would see a cut in funding, much of that comes from the expiration of COVID-19 housing assistance and the completion of housing projects this year, the budget plan says. Next year’s budget will add new investments to increase affordable housing and reduce homelessness, council chair Nathan Fletcher said.
“In this year’s budget, we are doing more than ever to address homelessness, including $10 million to help our 18 incorporated cities open new shelters,” Fletcher said in a video about the budget proposal. . “Next year, the county will open eight affordable housing developments, a record for any year in the county’s history, which means more than 1,000 people will have access to affordable housing.”
The county is also adding funds and staff to departments providing behavioral health care, medical services, child protective services, public assistance programs and homelessness, officials said.
“Even though there is a decrease in the budget for the Health and Human Services Agency to reduce one-time costs of the pandemic, the county continues to make long-term investments in mental health, support for addiction, essential food and health services, and efforts to reduce homelessness and increase affordable housing,” said Chief Financial Officer Ebony Shelton.
Under the proposed spending plan, behavioral health services, which include mental health care and addiction treatment, would increase from about $818 million to $889 million. It would also add 94 staff.
The ministry plans to expand services to people who often don’t have access to care, including children and youth, the homeless and those in the criminal justice system, officials said. It will add programs for LGBTQ youth and introduce mental health screening for middle school students, and expand the network of Mobile Crisis Response Teams, which send mental health professionals to nonviolent emergencies, a said director Luke Bergman.
Under the department’s new budget, mental health services would increase from about $495 million to nearly $554 million. Funding for inpatient mental health care and alcohol and drug services would also increase.
The proposed budget for the Department of Public Health Services would be cut by more than 40%, from $378 million to $216 million, according to Macchione. This is due to the elimination of one-time pandemic-related expenses and the transfer of certain positions and functions to the new Department of Medical Care Services.
However, it added 71 new positions for services such as maternal, child and family health, HIV and STD prevention and disease surveillance programs, Director Elizabeth Hernandez said.
The county’s programs for food assistance, health insurance and cash assistance would see spending rise from about $612 million to $629 million and add 119 new employees. Child Protective Services would grow from $416 million to $431 million and hire 99 staff. Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities would go from $48 million to $52.8 million.
Medical Care Services, which was previously under Public Health, was designated as a separate department to oversee nursing and pharmacy operations, Medi-Cal programs, and health care within the criminal justice system. According to the proposed budget, the newly formed department would have a budget of $41.6 million and 222 staff members.
While overall health and human services agency spending is expected to decline as various pandemic programs are reduced or eliminated, some elements of pandemic health care will be enacted over the long term, Macchione said.
The successes of community health workers, or promotoras, in promoting testing and vaccination have led health authorities to continue this work through permanent posts, he said.
“Building on best practices from the COVID-19 response with our community engagement using promotoras, we are adding 12 newly created Community Health Worker positions to provide support to a variety of education services neighborhood-based sanitation and health promotion.” he said.