Santa Clara County is dealing with unaffordable housing, inaccessible child care, homelessness, and a mental health crisis. A leader wants to build alliances to solve the region’s most pressing problems.
Superintendent Susan Ellenberg described her “Building Together” agenda Tuesday in her first state of the county address as chair of the Board of Supervisors. She stressed the importance of building trust with the public through transparency, accountability and accessibility.
“While[the issues]are not unique, they are daunting,” Ellenberg said. “But I don’t feel defeated, and you don’t have to be. Because together, we can find solutions that not only mitigate these challenges, but also uplift our communities.”
As one of the policy makers who announced A Mental health emergencies In Santa Clara County last January, Ellenberg, 56, said addressing the mental health and substance abuse crisis remains her top priority. She joined supervisor otto lee last year at Sound the alarmciting record increases in suicides and drug overdoses, insufficient number of beds in treatment facilities and Overuse of prisons As a “last resort” for those in need of treatment.
She said she would continue to push for more resources and build the workforce to meet the region’s demands. The province aims to add 500 behavioral health treatment beds by 2025, with 40 currently in operation and another 50 set to come online within a few months.
“Mental health issues and substance use disorder should be treated synonymously, from a treatment perspective, not through a punitive approach,” Ellenberg said.
The county has made some progress in the past year. This past February, the county launched the Assisted Outpatient Treatment Program, known as Laura Law. As implemented 988, a Hotline for suicide and the mental health crisis. some still skeptical of the program’s effectivenessaccording to shortage of workers, for prolonged periods and police-only responses to serious mental health crises. interrupt too Committed to spending millions of dollars earlier this year to continue several short-term mental health programs and invest in the county’s workforce.
Dave Mineta, President and CEO of Mental Health Service Provider Momentum for HealthHe said that Ellenberg’s approach would help the county and local organizations work better together.
“The collaboration between the county and its community partners is very important,” Mineta told the San José Spotlight. “We need a consensus so that we can support those in our community who are facing mental and behavioral health challenges.”
Expand child care services
Ellenberg also pledged to advocate for efforts to make childcare more accessible and affordable in the county, citing the financial burden associated with such services.
“We need to stop thinking so narrowly about child care as if it is just a challenge and responsibility of an individual parent,” she told San José Spotlight. “We need to understand that[universal child care]is an economic anti-poverty and employment-promoting tool with serious consequences.”
According to a 2022 Joint Venture Silicon Valley study, Almost half of all children Across Santa Clara and San Mateo counties live in families struggling to afford basic needs.
Ellenberg has been lobbying to keep the facilities upgraded and to hire more workers to improve the problem. Her office funded another study last year showing that all-day childcare services could help nearly 30,000 people, or 7,000 families, improve their quality of life.
Santa Clara County resident Chris Leung said she was impressed with Ellenberg’s commitment to making childcare more accessible.
“They seem to be able to get access to other people working together,” Leung told San José Spotlight. “It’s good that it’s focused on children, but I hope there will also be programs for (elderly) residents like myself.”
For residents Julie Krigel and Julie Stover, Ellenberg’s commitment to children and families is the highlight of her work. Krigel is Ellenberg’s cousin. The couple works at ArtHouse Studio, a non-profit organization that helps students engage in art.
“Susan cares deeply about the children in our community,” Stauffer told the San Jose Spotlight. “I’ve done a lot to get funding and build programs that[wouldn’t have happened].”
Addressing homelessness and housing
Ellenberg said the county will continue its work addressing homelessness and building affordable housing. The area has seen an explosion in the homeless population in the past decade, with a total of More than 10,000 people As of last year. Under the leadership of Ellenberg and Superintendent Cindy Chavez, the boycott campaign targeted homeless families known as Head home Helped 937 families off the streets.
To address this issue, county officials have allocated $812.7 million of the $950 million Measurement A Fund to help fund affordable housing across the South Bay. As of November, the county’s Measure A funds have produced 1,186 homes serving 2,508 people. About 1,000 homes are slated for completion by next year, and more than 2,600 are in the pipeline.
Jane Loving, CEO of Destination: Home, said she’s confident Ellenberg can bring more housing and resources to the county.
“Without the county’s leadership over the past five years, there would be absolutely no way we could get 20,000 people off the streets,[but]we still need to expand,” Loving told the San Jose Spotlight. Superintendent Ellenberg understands the root causes of homelessness. I couldn’t be more excited to be driving it.”
It makes sense for Ellenberg to focus on several big issues, said Jim Reed, San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan’s chief of staff.
“I thought that was a great speech,” Reed told Jose Spotlight. ‘The province will not be bored next year.’
Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or continue @tweet on Twitter.
Editor’s note: Jane Loving, CEO of Destination: Home, sits on the San José Spotlight Board of Directors.