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Jacob Pitches More Housing, Mental Health Care During State Of The County Speech

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob talks during a meeting in downtown San Diego, ...

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: County Supervisor Dianne Jacob talks during a meeting in downtown San Diego, Jan. 8, 2019.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob unveiled numerous proposals Wednesday, including improved mental health treatment and affordable housing, during the annual State of the County speech.

Standing before a full gallery that included leaders from other cities, Jacob said the Board of Supervisors has entered a new era.

Referring to recently elected Supervisors Jim Desmond and Nathan Fletcher, "we've got fresh voices, fresh perspectives," said Jacob, who serves as board chairwoman. "The new faces outnumber the old."

And while she may be one of the board's oldest members, Jacob said she's "not even close to slowing down."

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Jacob said now is "no time to play small ball," as the county needs affordable housing while protecting residents from the biggest natural threat, wildfire.

With more than 60,000 homes at risk in the county, "we must find some balance in this battle," Jacob said.

Since the 2003 Cedar Fire, the county has spent $500 million for on suppression efforts such as trucks and better-trained firefighters, Jacob said.

"Hope for the best, prepare for the worst and allow more housing — that's the challenge," she said.

Jacob said that next month, she and Desmond will propose that county efforts include better housing materials.

The county must strengthen fire-safe councils and fuel reduction efforts, and push state and federal leaders to eliminate environmental reviews required for brush removal, she said.

Jacob added that there needs to be improved mapping to identify high- risk communities, along with housing dispatchers under one roof to improve response time and save lives.

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When it comes to affordable housing, Jacob said the county must add another $25 million to its fund, which could mean 1,000 more homes in the region.

The board recently approved a policy that encourages homeowners to build so-called granny flats on their property, offering more housing for seniors, veterans and homeless people, Jacob said.

The county could also offer permit-ready building plans, which would save residents money, she added.

Jacob said the county is encouraging low-middle income housing with several projects, two of which are underway, for a total of 453 homes.

Because many people living on the streets struggle with mental illness, Jacob said the county must have a better coordinated system of care.

By working with hospitals, business, law enforcement, schools and nonprofits, the county can create a plan that stops the revolving door or emergency rooms and jail cells, she said.

Mental illness often involves substance abuse, and the county recently increased spending by $100 million to help over 17,000 people, Jacob said.

"We are radically transforming the delivery of care, connecting patients with treatment," Jacob said. "If we can successfully manage those with mental illness and get them housing, we can turn this crisis into a solution."

As more families struggle to care for family members with Alzheimer's disease and other memory loss-related conditions, Jacob announced a $1 million voucher program that will help with caregiver expenses.

"We are fighting like hell to give families help and hope," she said.

Toward the end of her speech, Jacob said she and Fletcher are poised to ask their colleagues to move forward on a proposal to give residents a choice when it comes to their energy provider.

"If the county can shop for energy, why not the rest of us?," she said.

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