2013 State of the County:
Focus on Healthcare and Curbing Gun Violence
Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager, President of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors, delivered the 2013 State of the County Address to a standing-room-only crowd on January 29th. The annual address provides a high-level roadmap of the County leadership’s priorities for the year ahead. Yeager announced three areas of strategic focus for 2013, including implementing healthcare reform, curbing gun violence, and improving community health in Santa Clara County.
President Yeager, along with being President of the Board of Supervisors, is Chair of the Health and Hospital Committee, and Vice-chair of the California State Association of Counties’ Health and Human Services Committee, so he is very familiar with the formidable task at hand when it comes to implementing healthcare reform. He stated that, “We must get healthcare right. Literally, the lives of tens of thousands of people in our county depend on it.”
Healthcare Reform Implementation
The national Affordable Care Act will take effect one year from now, and Yeager outlined a number of goals for the county relating to delivering quality health care for all, including: the need to provide adequate access to care for 20,000 new Medi-Cal beneficiaries; the need to streamline eligibility processes; improve care coordination; and enhance outreach and community education on health care options. Yeager also is proposing that every child in the county be assured of accessing quality medical and dental coverage, and that previous passed Measure A funds be used for this purpose. Because of the state’s significant role in deciding the county’s involvement in healthcare reform implementation, Yeager said he wants to hire a lobbyist in Sacramento to focus solely on healthcare reform.
Curbing Gun Violence
Yeager wants to see the creation of a gun buyback program to reduce the number of guns in the county. He also wants to ensure that people who purchased guns legally (in many cases, out of state), but who are not legally allowed to own them here by California state law (due to a criminal record or mental diagnosis, for example), are required to surrender all firearms in their possession. He cited a county report identifying at least 529 registered gun-owners in the county as not being eligible to own them under state law. These 529 individuals own approximately 1,239 guns, 54 of which are assault rifles.
Improving Community Health
The topics included in improving community health were far-reaching, from expanding HIV and STD (sexually transmitted disease) testing programs, to reducing childhood obesity. Yeager announced an ad campaign which will target young people and other at-risk populations to combat the rising rates of sexually transmitted disease in the county. He will also ask that a pilot project for HIV home test kits be developed for at-risk populations.
Almost one in four children in the county is overweight or obese; even more in some communities. A major contributor to this is over-consumption of sugar-loaded beverages. Yeager wants a focus within the Public Health Department to promote alternatives, such as financing additional hydration stations at schools and other places children and families gather. Yeager said he also wants developmental screenings of children during pediatric visits as, “more than 18,000 children under the age of six are thought to have developmental delays that go unidentified until they enter kindergarten.”
Latino and Vietnamese community-wide health assessments were done in recent years to identify the unique health needs of those communities, and Yeager wants a new focus this year on the African American and LGBT communities.
Supervisor Yeager also talked about looking toward the county’s future, conserving natural resources and addressing climate change. He wants the county to update building codes to include electric vehicle charging infrastructure. He also wants to see food waste composted and not go into landfill. Today, about 25% of the waste that haulers pick up in the county is food waste.
Plans to Run in 2014
In closing, Supervisor Yeager said that, “Being a County Supervisor is the most rewarding job I have ever had,” and he announced his intention to run in 2013 for his final term on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.