Reporter’s Notebook – Board of Supes, May 7: West Nile Virus; Firefighter Funding; Homeless Offender Housing
At this meeting, the Board of Supervisors received the annual report from Peter Bonkrude, District Manager of the Shasta Mosquito and Vector Control District.
A major challenge for the District in 2012 was the reappearance of West Nile virus, first seen in Shasta County in the summer of 2004. The virus infects people, animals, birds and mosquitos. 2012 was the worst year for the virus nationally since 2003, infecting 5,387 people nationwide, causing 243 deaths. California saw 476 human cases, with 19 deaths. Shasta County identified West Nile virus in birds, chickens, horses and one squirrel. One person became ill.
The District responded to the threat of the virus by significantly increasing activities to control larvae and adult mosquitos. These include treatment of neglected pools and water sources and clearing vegetation around drainage and other water sources; distribution of mosquito fish that eat mosquitos and can live in ponds, waste water treatment plants, stock ponds, water troughs and other water features; and use of chemical controls including larvicides, adulticides and herbicides. The District also conducted research on the effectiveness of various treatment types.
The District conducted surveillance to determine the incidence of disease in the county. They used light traps and encephalitis virus surveillance traps. They tested recently deceased wild birds. And, they maintained ‘sentinel chickens’ that provide blood samples for testing. There were groups in 10 chickens in five locations around the county. They checked each of these sources for West Nile virus, encephalitis virus, malaria and dog heartworm pests. These activities are all supported through property taxes and benefit assessments against individual properties.
Somehow, I feel safer knowing there are sentinel chickens on watch, don’t you?
The Board also received the 2012 Annual Report of the Shasta County Fire Department from Chief Rick Kyle. The Emergency Command Center dispatches all fire agencies in Shasta County except the Redding Fire Department. In 2012, the Command Center dispatched personnel in response to more than 10,000 calls. 73% of these calls were in response to medical concerns. Slightly more than 14% of these calls involved wildland fires, structure fires or other fires. The balance of the calls were for “fire menace standby and other public assists”.
The Department participates in a 6-county Hazardous Materials Response Team that has received certification from California Emergency Management Agency as a Level II Team (requiring specialized equipment and training). The Department provides Pre-Fire Planning activities, and fire investigations including arson.
The Board remains concerned about the fragility of some volunteer fire departments, some of which have less than 10 firefighters. The Board has increased response stipends from $6 to $12 per person per event in the 2013/14 fiscal year. This will, it is hoped, improve recruitment and retention for these important volunteer efforts.
The Board continued its efforts to implement AB 109, the Realignment of some offenders from the state to counties. The Board approved a contract with Northern Valley Catholic Social Service to provide a supportive housing program for homeless offenders. The Board will monitor the impact of this program, and others, on the percentage of offenders who re-offend after release. State prisons have a rate of roughly 70% re-offense, or recidivism. Any reduction in this figure is an improvement in cost and public safety.
The Board agreed to a proposal to shift some state Realignment funding from Social Services to Mental Health to deal with an increase in individuals requiring involuntary treatment assessment and care in inpatient or long term care settings. This issue was discussed in an earlier meeting, and the reasons for the increase are not clear. The county Health and Human Services Agency will continue to monitor this issue and attempt to identify the reasons for the increase.
Catherine Camp is currently retired. She served as a Consultant to the California Senate Budget Committee in 2001-02, reviewing Social Services, Employment Development, Aging, Community Services, Alcohol and Drug Programs, Rehabilitation and Child Support budgets. From 1989-2000, Catherine was Executive Director for the California Mental Health Directors Association. During that period, Catherine staffed the county mental health system's restructuring of public mental health through Realignment of community and long term care programs from the state to the county, transfer of the management of specialty mental health Medi-Cal services to those counties that agreed to provide them, development of risk mechanisms for consortia of small counties, and advocacy and policy analysis for the operation of public mental health programs throughout the state. Her prior experience includes Executive Director to the California-Nevada Community Action Association, Principal Consultant to the Assembly Human Services Policy Committee, and Director of Community Action and Head Start programs in Shasta County.
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