VENTURA COUNTY: Supervisors Approve Alternative to Measure O
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an ordinance that would allocate $10 million of the county's annual tobacco settlement for the next five years to a variety of health services and programs, the Los Angeles Times reports. The supervisors' proposal would funnel money into a "wide range" of health services, including tobacco prevention programs, mental health services and not-for-profit groups. Private hospitals would also receive a portion of the funds. The supervisors' plan aims to "undercut support" for Measure O, the Community Memorial Hospital-sponsored ballot initiative that would divert the county's $260 million tobacco settlement to private hospitals. Supervisors cited the plan as being more inclusive than Measure O. Ventura County Chief Administrative Officer Harry Hufford said, "I see this as an investment for the community in improving the quality of health care. It's more bang for the buck, versus just putting the money into three (private) hospitals." The board's proposal sparked reactions from Measure O supporters, who criticized the plan as a "political stunt" and a "short term promise meant to fool voters." Measure O supporters also argued that future boards could overturn the ordinance, leaving the money to be spent "on anything they chose," including non-health related programs. "I lost count how [many] times they used the word 'flexible' with this plan," County Memorial Hospital spokesperson Mark Barnhill said. Kay Woodburn, another Measure O supporter, said that "there would not have been a need for Measure O if the board had earlier committed the money to health care programs." County voters will decide the fate of Measure O on Nov. 7, but County Supervisor Frank Schillo warned that even if the initiative passes, county health leaders would "demand supervisors revisit another ordinance" (Dirmann, Los Angeles Times, 10/25).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.