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Public Safety and Health

Firearms Summit & Buy-Back Program

Santa Clara County works best when we work together. Supervisor Cortese has been saying that, and trying to live by it, since he joined the Board of Supervisors in 2007. He was able to watch those words come to life at the Community Summit on Firearms Safety, a day of table-top discussions of 300 people about a topic that has polarized our nation. Supervisor Cortese called for the summit shortly after the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and since then, the U.S. has suffered two more mass shootings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Thousand Oaks, California. The Firearms Summit was a civic engagement experiment to see if we could share diverse opinions and avoid the all-too common shouting matches we have experienced at town hall meetings. It worked. Residents came together representing a wide variety of viewpoints and experiences with firearms, including National Rifle Association members, public health workers, educators, Second Amendment Rights advocates, students, clergy, parents and community leaders. They were conservative and liberal, diverse in ethnicity, age and income. The Firearms Summit produced some ideas that have turned into action. The County launched that allows owners of unwanted guns to turn them in 24/7 into the Sheriff’s Offices without having to wait for a gun “buy back” event. Since the program launched in May, 68 firearms have been turned in. Also, Supervisor Cortese recently called for an ordinance that would require safe storage of firearms in homes in unincorporated Santa Clara County to reduce the risk of accidents, injuries and deaths.

Safe Storage Ordinance

The use of firearms in suicide is especially alarming in Santa Clara County. According to data from the County Medical Examiner/Coroner’s Office, from 2014 to 2017, 179 of 275 deaths from firearms were suicides. That’s 65 percent, or nearly two-thirds of all deaths by firearms during that period. Studies show that safe storage of firearms in homes can help prevent suicides, as well as accidents and thefts. That’s why Supervisor Cortese proposed – and the Board approved – an ordinance that would require firearms to be safely stored in homes in unincorporated Santa Clara County.

Purchase of Hospitals to Provide Care to San Jose, South County

After successfully facing two legal challenges by the California Attorney General, the County of Santa Clara is the new owner of two hospitals and a clinic that will continue to provide critical health and emergency care to residents in San Jose, Gilroy and Morgan Hill.

“I am relieved that the sale has been completed and eager to move forward with integrating our health care system,” said Supervisor Dave Cortese. “The two hospitals and the clinic are essential to the lives of the residents who would have been left without nearby emergency care.”

The County’s purchase of O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, Saint Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy and DePaul Urgent Care Center in Morgan Hill become effective at midnight on February 28. The sale ensures that the hospitals will remain open and the employees who want to remain at those facilities will keep their jobs. Cortese was a vocal leader in the County’s campaign against the bid to block the sale, alongside his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors.

“The very mission of the County’s health care system is to serve anyone, regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay,” Cortese said. “We operate under state mandates that require even a higher level of care than the attorney general’s conditions. And we are committed to continuing to serve the residents who fought with us to keep these hospitals from closing.”

Children’s Health Assessment and Coverage

On April 7, 2015, Supervisor Cortese, President of the Board of Supervisor, directed the Health & Hospital Administration to conduct an assessment of the Health of Children in Santa Clara County.

The goal of the assessment is to provide a countywide profile of behavioral health, preventive health and medical health status of children in Santa Clara County with a focus on the racial/ethnic disparities. The report can serve as a valuable tool for policy makers, foundations, non- profits, researchers, elected officials, and government agencies that want a better understanding of the health of this important population. Special studies focused on the health of children in our county reinforce the vision of "Better Health for All”, because information can be used to select the most salient priority areas and work with stakeholders to improve the health of children in Santa Clara County.

Mental Health Restoration

In order to mitigate the impacts of budget cuts to service recipients, the Mental Health Department made a number of changes that would have resulted in eliminating mental health services for youth. As a firm believer that these services are valuable in maintaining the health and welfare of our community, Supervisor Cortese led the movement to restore $400,000 to the Mental Health Department so they could continue to provide mental health services to our youth.

Other Actions:

  • Support for Roots Community Health Center
  • Diabetes Prevention Campaign
  • Free Diabetes Screening at yearly Day on the Bay Festival
  • Introduced county legislative position in support of single-payer system (HR 676) as the basis for national health care reform
  • Host yearly Homeless Health Fair
  • Created County’s first Neighborhood Safety Unit in San Jose’s high-crime zip codes
  • Spearheaded County of Santa Clara Fireworks Prevention Ordinance
  • As co-chair of the county’s Housing, Land Use, Environment, Transportation Committee, stepped up graffiti removal by the County
  • Initiated landmark Anti-Human Trafficking Team in Sheriff’s Office
  • Directed staff to speed up a plan to put crossing guards at dangerous expressway intersections
  • With Board support, offered Sheriff’s officers to help SJPD fight crime because of significant staff shortages
  • Fought to ensure that San Jose EMS response times meet goals
  • Started the County’s Whistleblower Program (2009)
  • Chaired the successful public safety bond campaign in San Jose
  • Helped create the Sheriff’s successful transit drug enforcement unit
  • Created and funded the Sheriff’s Notario Fraud Unit
  • Expanded the Sheriff’s illegal Marijuana grow eradication efforts
  • Supported wage, benefit and operational improvements for officers
  • As a school board member, created the nation’s first code red response protocol, first Parent Safety Coalition, and first regional School Safety Director in combination with police and county agencies
  • Helped create and participate in the San Jose Gang Prevention Task Force


Last updated: 5/18/2020 10:12 PM