County Supervisor Jim Desmond on Wednesday touted improvements to North County services, including behavioral health, but also said there was still work to be done, particularly when it came to providing more housing and reduce homelessness.
During his North County state address to an audience at the El Corazon Senior Center, Desmond said he “will always be a voice and fight for our fair share of resources.”
“I’m just a small part, trying to connect the dots,” Desmond said of his role as supervisor representing District 5, which includes towns like Escondido, Oceanside and San Marcos, Camp Pendleton and dozens of unincorporated communities.
North County “has a lot of potential,” said Desmond, who mentioned the area’s importance in agriculture, education, industry, medicine, military, recreation, tourism and tribal communities. “We get to live where people want to vacation.”
Instead of too much government regulation, Desmond said political philosophy should give people the tools to live in harmony with nature; provide more housing and assistance to underserved people; ensuring the safety of residents; and let residents raise families, earn a living, and be productive — “and then get out of the way.”
The supervisor said society as a whole should be ashamed of the number of people living on the streets. Due to various court rulings, the government cannot force people into behavioral or drug treatment, and county jails are the primary provider of mental health services, Desmond said.
“It’s a problem we all face, but we won’t until the laws and lawmakers are changed in Sacramento,” he added.
Desmond said his office pushed for policies to alleviate the homelessness crisis, and he credited county departments and their leaders for programs offering help to those who want it.
Along with mayors of North County towns, the county has launched a pilot program in Oceanside, which enables social workers to provide a range of services/programs to homeless people, Desmond said, adding that the effort is expanding. now countywide.
Crisis stabilization centers are open 24 hours a day for people in need, including walk-ins, Desmond said.
Such centers have not been easy, with the process beginning three years ago with the help of former supervisor Kristin Gaspar, who worked to secure funding for an Escondido facility, he said. added.
This led to a collaboration with County District Attorney Summer Stephan to recently open a center in Vista. Just two days ago, a new facility in Oceanside opened, Desmond said, adding that next year the Tri-City Medical Center campus will add more beds for people with mental health needs. .
Reducing homelessness means more housing, and it’s not easy to find, Desmond said. On the positive side, he added, North County has gained more than 500 units over the past three years.
More expensive housing forces people to live farther from the county, Desmond said.
“We have to build,” Desmond said. “If we start losing our jobs, we are in for a world of suffering.”
Seniors could be the next unfortunate wave of homelessness due to rising costs, but the county is considering an affordable housing program for seniors in Escondido, the supervisor said.
To help families suffering from domestic violence, Desmond said his office is partnering with the district attorney’s office at a family justice center located along the Route 78 corridor in San Marcos.
“We try to help people,” while getting them off the streets by working with different nonprofits including Interfaith Community Services, North County Health Project, Casa de Amparo, he said.
“These are the angles of our community,” Desmond said. With the homelessness crisis on everyone’s mind, “North County is better and we’re going to fix it one day,” he added.
On the public safety front, Desmond said he “will never vote for defunding the police,” referring to recent criticism of law enforcement after the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of ‘a policeman.
While there are some bad apples in the ranks, the profession in general doesn’t deserve its bad reputation, the supervisor said, praising the sheriff’s department, the probation department and the fire department for keeping the public safe.
Desmond said the county is lucky not to have had a major wildfire in the past few years, and his office has been pushing for more escape routes, brush clearing, better building materials, better vegetation management, emergency planning, training and communications.
“We plan, we improve, we allocate resources,” he added.
Desmond said that during his tenure, “we were successful in defeating every proposal to place a sexually violent predator in North County.”
While SVPs may have had their day, they’re not cured, Desmond said, adding that he and his fellow supervisors approved a policy that gives them veto power over the placement of SVPs in wards.
Desmond said one of the best things about his job is meeting people, including tribal communities, “who are great neighbors” and an important part of the county’s economy.
Desmond, who is up for re-election this year, said the COVID-19 pandemic kept him from delivering a North County state address last year and in 2020.
“COVID hopefully is in the rearview mirror,” said Desmond, who praised county medical officials, including public health officer Wilma Wooten, “who did their best to protect us during the pandemic”.
Desmond, a critic of some state or federal pandemic mandates, said “everyone went above and beyond to deal with it, even though not everyone had the right answers.”
He mentioned that county health and social services and fire departments have administered more than 60,000 vaccine doses and 80,000 COVID tests.
Desmond criticized the San Diego Association of Governments for failing to deliver on transportation promises to North County municipalities, while wanting more tax increases.
For example, a promised high occupancy lane for SR-78 has not materialized, Desmond said, adding that SANDAG should no longer receive North County funding until it delivers.
“We don’t get the short end of the stick – we don’t get the stick at all,” he said. “We want our resources here.”
Desmond said it was important to “continue to be curious and question authority” but to strive for civil debate. “Let’s treat everyone with respect in the future.”