During County Government Month in April, CSAC is presenting blogs and short video features on 13 award-winning programs from nine counties that demonstrate effective, original and cost-conscious ways counties are serving their citizens.

San Diego County has a solid track record for being a CSAC Challenge Award Recipient.  The County embraces innovation and the three programs featured here are prime examples of their objective of improving the lives of all San Diego residents.

In-Home Support Services (IHSS) Reform – California Counties Innovations Award
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Reform is an oft-used word, but in many cases, does not meet the potential it promises.  Not so with San Diego County’s IHSS program. IHSS allows elderly and disabled individuals to be cared for in their homes as opposed to more expensive nursing facilities. By allowing individuals to stay in their home, it has proven to be more beneficial for the clients and less costly for the county. However, the system in San Diego and across the state was seeing skyrocketing cost increases. The county convened stakeholders, including a tax payer association, to analyze the program and make recommendations.  With a reformed system in place, the county has seen expenditures drop $24 million and cost growth shrink from 8-10 percent annually, to just .2 percent.  Yet services are being maintained and San Diego County’s most vulnerable citizens are receiving the care needed to ensure a quality and dignity of life.

 Camp Connect San Diego
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Counties too often become the surrogate parents of children whose parents are unable to care for them.  And although the foster system is a necessary option to ensure the safety of some children, it can prove difficult to find a placement for all siblings in one home.  Camp Connect was created to offer foster youth who are separated from their brothers or sisters a chance to spend a week together, just being kids. Sibling bonds are strong, especially when either parent is absent. Being with a brother or sister helps the youth maintain some sense of an identity and survive the emotional upheavals of a being removed from the family home.

Free Foreclosure Prevention HOME Clinics
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San Diego County was one of the first areas that began to feel the economy’s seismic shifts. As the foreclosure crisis bloomed, the San Diego County Library partnered with a local non-profit to offer free foreclosure prevention clinics to help homeowners stave off financial disaster. At the clinics, attendees meet one-on-one with volunteer attorneys and credit and/or mortgage counselors. There are also sessions on credit management, loans, bankruptcy and consumer protection.  Why would a library have cause to be involved with the foreclosure crisis?  It is very simple: the library is a trusted space.  In an era where there are unscrupulous advisors and programs poised to take advantage of homeowners in distress, holding these sessions at the library underscored the legitimacy of the experts, and advice, for the attendees.  It also affirms that libraries are not just a place to get a book or surf the web, but a space where community is created through supportive programs that meet the needs of residents.  Today approximately 2,500 individuals have attended more the 30 clinics held at the library.

County government works, which is why Californians prefer to have programs and services managed and operated at the local level. The county programs featured by CSAC during County Government Month are 2011 CSAC Challenge Award recipients. These awards recognize the innovative and creative spirit of California county governments as they find new and effective ways of providing programs and services to their citizens. The Call for Entries for the 2012 CSAC Challenge Awards is being distributed this month.

 Erin Treadwell is CSAC’s Communication Coordinator. She can be reached at etreadwell(at)counties.org.