SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.—This year will be a year of challenges and opportunities for the County of Santa Clara. Supervisor Ken Yeager, who this month took the helm as President of the Board of Supervisors, acknowledged this as he addressed a standing-room-only crowd in the Board of Supervisors Chambers delivering the 2013 State of Santa Clara County address. His plan is to focus strategically on the areas of implementing healthcare reform, curbing gun violence, and improving community health.
Implementing Healthcare Reform
“The national Affordable Care Act will take effect one year from now,” said Yeager. “My top priority this year is to make sure Santa Clara County is prepared for Health Care Reform.”
He said the County has already committed to new information systems, new clinics, increased access to primary care, and more effective partnerships with the safety net providers in the region. However, the challenges of National Health Care Reform will require the County to re-double its efforts to measurably improve health outcomes, improve client satisfaction, and lower the total cost of care. These three goals are the so-called “Triple Aim” goals that will make the County health system the provider of ‘first choice.’
“As president of the Board of Supervisors, chair of the Health and Hospital Committee, and vice-chair of the California State Association of Counties’ Health and Human Services Committee, I will be devoting much of my time to this issue,” said Yeager. “We must get healthcare right. Literally, the lives of tens of thousands of people in our county depend on it.”
Yeager said that to achieve the goal of quality health care for all, the county must:
1. Provide sufficient access to care for 20,000 new Medi-Cal beneficiaries in Santa Clara County.
2. Work with the Social Services Agency to streamline cumbersome eligibility processes.
3. Improve care coordination for the 100,000 residents who are already on Medi-Cal and the other thousands likely to qualify for health insurance coverage through the Benefit Exchange. And,
4. Strengthen collaborations with local stakeholders and community-based partners to enhance outreach, education and enrollment efforts so that people know their options, get covered, establish a medical home, and improve their health.
Ensuring that every child in Santa Clara County has access to comprehensive, high quality health care is a concept that Santa Clara County has long embraced. Santa Clara County was the first county to adopt a 100% coverage goal and contribute significant funds to the Healthy Kids initiative. The recession left the County short of meeting that target, but the recent passage of Measure A reaffirmed the importance of this objective to Santa Clara County voters.
Yeager is proposing that the County recommit to covering all kids in need of medical and dental coverage in Santa Clara County. He recommends using “Measure A” dollars to move the income threshold of the Healthy Kids program from 300% to 400% of the federal poverty level.
Curbing Gun Violence
“The horrific, senseless shootings we have seen over the past year highlight a particular need to focus on gun violence,” he said. “While our allies in Washington like Congresswoman Eshoo are doing all they can on the national level, we can make a meaningful impact here at the local level.”
Yeager will work with the Sheriff and District Attorney to create a comprehensive program to curb gun violence by reducing the number of guns in the county. His vision is to create a gun buyback program that allows residents to voluntarily surrender firearms, no questions asked. In exchange, the County would provide funding as an incentive to residents to turn in their guns.
Yeager will work with the Sheriff to have the 529 people in the county – identified in a report by the Attorney General - who can no longer legally possess firearms, to surrender the firearms in their possession. It is estimated that those individuals own 1,239 guns, 54 of which are assault rifles.
Improving Community Health
There are over 3,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Santa Clara County. To drastically reduce transmission rates, testing is crucial.
“Knowing one’s HIV status lessens the likelihood of infecting others as well as helping to connect residents to the treatment they need,” said Yeager. “This is why I will be working with the Public Health Department to expand HIV and STD (sexually transmitted disease) testing programs.”
Yeager will ask Public Health to create a pilot project to deliver 500 FDA-approved home test kits at no cost to at-risk populations and individuals who have not been tested for HIV. Also, in the spring, an ad campaign will be launched by the Public Health Department to reach young people and other at-risk populations to combat the rising rates of sexually transmitted disease.
Obesity remains a serious health concern. Almost one in four children in Santa Clara County is overweight or obese. In some communities, that number is one in three. Obese children have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, and other serious illnesses that will affect them into adulthood. Yeager said, if we do not do something to reverse this trend, this generation of children is likely to live shorter lives than their parents.
A major contributor to both child and adult obesity is over-consumption of sugar-loaded beverages.
“I will ask our Public Health Department to develop strategies aimed at reducing high-sugar, high-calorie beverage consumption and to create a program offering residents water as an alternative, by financing additional hydration stations in areas where kids and families gather,” said Yeager.
Yeager strongly supports the Public Health Department efforts to perform a community-wide health assessment. This year he will ask the department to build on the Latino and Vietnamese health assessments by focusing on the African American and LGBT communities.
In Santa Clara County, more than 18,000 children under the age of 6 are thought to have one or more developmental delays that go unidentified until they enter kindergarten. To address the need for more universal and frequent developmental screenings for young children, Yeager is asking that Valley Medical Center and public health clinics perform routine developmental screenings for all children during their well-child pediatric visits.
Physical health is linked to mental health and substance use. Since there is a high percentage of individuals who have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, Yeager is supporting a consolidation of mental health and alcohol and drug services into a combined Behavioral Health Department.
Looking Toward the Future
“The County must continue to focus on conserving natural resources and combating climate change,” said Yeager. “We’ve become a national leader on these issues. I’m proud of what we have done to advance sustainability in our County, and I’m excited about what we will tackle in 2013.”
To further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Yeager wants the County to encourage the use of electric vehicles. To accomplish this, electrical wiring should be installed in new homes and commercial buildings so that electric vehicle chargers can be easily added if owners want them. To spur that opportunity, he is calling for the County to update its building codes to include this capability in all new residential and commercial construction.
He also plans to see that more of the waste produced at home and at work is composted and does not go into landfills. In unincorporated Santa Clara County, 25% of the waste is food waste. As the County’s contracts with waste haulers come up for renewal, Yeager will work with the Integrated Waste Management Division to include residential and commercial food waste collection in the new contracts.
At the end of his address, Yeager remarked, “Being a County Supervisor is the most rewarding job I have ever had. This is why I am announcing today that I intend to run in 2014 for my final term on the Board of Supervisors and not for any other office. There is a lot of important work to be done at the County, and I would be honored to be part of the team that accomplishes it.”
A Summary of Supervisor Yeager’s Goals for 2013
• Prepare Santa Clara County for Health Care Reform
• Ensure every eligible child has medical and dental coverage
• Sponsor gun buyback program to help reduce gun violence
• Support Sheriff’s efforts to take away guns from those legally prohibited from having a firearm
• Reduce the over-consumption of sugar-loaded beverages in our community
• Create a program to install hydration stations where kids and families gather
• Expand HIV and STD testing programs
• Conduct health assessment of the African American and LGBT communities
• Perform developmental screenings of children during pediatric visits
• Consolidate mental health and alcohol and drug services into one department
• Update building codes to require electric vehicle charging infrastructure
• Offer residential and commercial food waste collection
Full Text of Speech
Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Laurel Anderson, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119; Jim Weston, Office of Supervisor Ken Yeager, (408) 299-5040.
Posted: January 29, 2013