Los Angeles County Approves New Health Director
Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday named Bruce Chernof as director of the county health system, the Los Angeles Times reports. Chernof has been serving as the interim director of the county Department of Health Services since December 2005.
Chernof has no experience leading a public health system. He was appointed county senior medical director in 2004, and previously worked as regional medical director for insurer Health Net and as an administrator at a county public hospital.
County officials have said the costs of caring for the uninsured could exceed $1 billion by 2008. In 2005, the county served nearly 700,000 patients, of which nearly two-thirds were uninsured and many were illegal immigrants. In addition, the county could lose $200 million if proposed cuts to federal Medicaid reimbursements are approved. The county also is working to address problems at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.
Last month, Chernof said the county's estimated health system deficit could be halved if voters approve a proposed tobacco tax measure on the November ballot and federal funding for Medi-Cal increases (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 5/10).
Also on Tuesday, Los Angeles County supervisors approved spending $186 million in Proposition 63 funds to expand mental health services for more than 18,000 adults and children in the county, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. State voters in 2004 approved Proposition 63 to increase the state income tax by 1% on residents whose annual incomes exceed $1 million.
Funding initially will be distributed to agencies that help homeless people in downtown Los Angeles, including $11.6 million for a trust fund to develop permanent housing for people with mental illnesses.
The plan also calls for:
- Hiring 260 mental health workers;
- Building a psychiatric urgent-care facility at Olive View-University of California-Los Angeles Medical Center in Sylmar;
- Funds to launch and expand programs for people with mental illnesses, including 24-hour counseling services, rent subsidies and alcohol and drug treatment programs; and
- Establishing more than 12 transitional resource centers throughout the county (Anderson, Los Angeles Daily News, 5/10).
In addition, Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday voted 3-2 to begin issuing state-mandated medical marijuana identification cards to patients. Supervisors also voted 4-1 to ban marijuana dispensaries in residential areas and require that they be at least 1,000 feet from schools, libraries and other institutions (Los Angeles Times, 5/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.