San Diego County to Increase Spending on Public Safety and Social Services
The San Diego County Public Safety Department and its Health and Human Services Agency are expected to secure more funding as part of a budget proposal presented to the Oversight Board on Wednesday, May 26.
The proposed spending increases reflect the county’s focus on expanding behavioral health services, reorganizing parts of the criminal justice system, and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With this budget and under the leadership of your board, we are truly establishing a new foundation of racial equity, social and environmental justice and sustainability,” CFO Ebony Shelton told the board. .
According to the plan, the county’s budget would increase to $ 7 billion, an increase of $ 480 million, or 7 percent. There is no proposal to cut services and the county expects to increase staffing by 660 full-time positions, Shelton said.
Public safety agencies will hire more nurses and mental health personnel, she said, and staffing will increase for public works, land use planning, legal services and outreach operations and community engagement.
The public safety group – comprising the county fire and sheriff departments, probation, district attorney, public defender and other agencies – would receive an additional $ 147 million this year and 273 new employees, said Director General of Public Safety Holly Porter.
“The big changes in the budget are mainly for the sheriff’s department, the public defender and the district attorney’s office,” Porter said.
The sheriff’s department requested 255 new positions, the public defender would add 28 and the district attorney would add 15. The medical examiner and probation departments would also add positions, while child support services would eliminate 30 places. vacant.
Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Jim Desmond have indicated they will assign additional staff to county firefighters to bolster fire companies with only two firefighters per shift.
“As we continue to move forward, I would like us to hit the low of three and ideally four,” Fletcher said. “It’s a little worrying. Even though there are only three stations with two people it seems to be a bit weak and maybe something we can consider as we go along.
Get the Del Mar Times delivered to your inbox
The best stories of Carmel Valley, Del Mar and Solana Beach every Friday for free.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from The Del Mar Times.
The public defender’s office called for an increase in staff, noting that it will be difficult to manage the workload that has built up during the pandemic, when court proceedings have slowed down but homicide and criminal cases. death sentences have increased, said public defender Randy Mize. His office currently has 130 homicide cases and more than 700 felony trials to deal with, he said.
“The backlog of thousands of cases that derailed during the pandemic is the highest priority for the public defender,” Mize said. “It has been difficult to investigate serious cases, such as homicides and death penalty cases. As a result, we were able to resolve relatively few of these types of cases during the pandemic; however, we continue to be assigned many of these types of new cases. “
District Attorney Summer Stephan also called for new staff, highlighting her office’s work on programs to reduce overly harsh sentences filed under older laws, as well as her efforts to investigate cold cases and address serious violent crime backlogs.
“We have a backlog of 209 homicides,” she said. “We also have 280 cases awaiting trial for sexual assault. These are very serious and people depend on us to do the job. “
The Sheriff’s Department has also asked for new staff to operate several residential units in Rock Mountain detention centers, address mental and medical health issues in the prison system, and assemble a law enforcement team to handle cases. unlicensed cannabis operations.
The County Health and Human Services Agency has focused on responding to COVID-19 over the past year, Director Nick Macchione said. It has organized systems to test, trace and treat COVID-19 infections, rolled out vaccinations, controlled other infectious diseases such as hepatitis, tuberculosis and HIV, and provided safety net services , did he declare.
“I don’t think an agency has been tested the way health and social services have,” Fletcher said. “If you think about it, a global pandemic that never happened in our lifetime, the incredible work our public health teams had to do… has been tremendous.”
The agency is proposing to add $ 211 million and 311 new positions, he said.
Over the next year, he plans to expand a program designed to strengthen families to keep children at home and place children in foster care and improve children’s educational outcomes.
The agency will also seek solutions for the San Pasqual Academy, to enable it to continue offering childcare services for young people and other children, according to a presentation to the council.
– Deborah Sullivan-Brennan is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune