Written by Michael Palomba
Public health has long taken a backseat in San Diego. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors, controlling a $5 billion budget, have said that their highest priority is public safety. While that is still the case, they have clearly moved public health up significantly on that priority list.
This past June, Supervisor Dianne Jacob joined her fellow supervisors in voting for a county budget with a big focus on mental health, child welfare, and various other public health services.
In 2014, Jacob launched a formidable project that brings local neurologists together in an attempt to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. According to the organization’s website, their mission is “to address the devastating toll of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in San Diego County. [The Program] brings together teams of experts and decision-makers that include members of our region’s top political leadership, research institutions, public universities, health care systems, caregiver groups, and other community organizations.”
The County Supervisors have unanimously signed off on a program that will provide quick access to help first responders dealing with severe mental health issues. The Captain Ryan J. Mitchell First Responder Behavioral Health Program will offer confidential mental and behavioral health support to first responders who need it, regardless of jurisdiction or branch of public safety.
It will be accessible through a dedicated phone line, the program’s website, as well as a smartphone app. Captain Ryan J. Mitchell was a Cal Fire captain who committed suicide after working 19 days straight in 2017. His father, William Mitchell, thanked the Board in saying that this “brings healing to our broken hearts.”
Supervisor Dianne Jacob has done an excellent job leading this crucial initiative, which will go a long way in addressing interconnected issues affecting San Diego, such as poverty, homelessness, and violent crime. Each of these has a significant relation to broader mental health issues, so the Board’s efforts will be much needed for struggling San Diegans.