The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to take the first steps toward creating a new county department dedicated to serving older adults and adults with disabilities.
“Right now, older adults and adults with disabilities are served by most if not all of our county departments,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who co-authored the proposal with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
“All of these efforts are important, but they are fragmented and there’s not enough coordination,” Hahn said. “Bringing these efforts under one roof will not only allow us to coordinate our work, (but) it would also give us the ability to be proactive rather than reactive to address the needs of older adults and adults with disabilities alike.”
Last year, Hahn and Kuehl proposed creating a new department dedicated to serving older adults and asked for a report exploring the merits and feasibility of this idea.
The report, written by Dr. Kathleen Wilbur, determined that a department for older adults is not only recommended but (also) necessary to properly serving this population. In addition, the report recognized the overlap between the services the county provides to older adults and to adults with disabilities and recommended creating a new department that serves both populations.
“I am very happy to strongly support having L.A. County centralize and greatly strengthen the critical systems needed for older County residents to thrive,” Kuehl said. “Between 2010 and 2030, our older adult population will double. A standalone department of aging may be the best way to ensure the health and well-being of our current and future older adult populations.”
Los Angeles County’s population of older adults over the age of 60 is already larger than the older adult population of 41 states and is expected to double between 2010 and 2030, from roughly 1.8 million to nearly 3.6 million.
The Board passed a motion authored by Hahn and Kuehl directing the County CEO’s office to take the initial steps necessary to prepare for creating this new department, including developing a budget and funding structure, and report back to the board in 180 days.
The county will also create a Leadership Council to coordinate the transition process and improve coordination of the many county departments that serve both older adults and adults with disabilities.
Hahn noted during the meeting that amid the pandemic, Los Angeles County does not have the resources to create a new department at this time. However, she noted the importance of starting this groundwork so that when the time is right the county can move quickly to get this department up and running.
Barger Abstains from Vote
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the county’s 5th District which includes the Santa Clarita Valley, abstained from voting on the motion heard by the Board of Supervisors.
In a report previously requested by the Board of Supervisors regarding the proposed creation of the proposed new department, the Chief Executive Office had yet to finalize the necessary analysis that would indicate its proposed cost and staffing impacts, Barger said in a separate statement.
The detailed analysis, which would include the financial impacts and an assessment of staffing and organizational structure, is due to the Board of Supervisors later this year.
“While I support efforts to readjust and refocus county services where they can have the most impact, we should wait until we have received a detailed analysis to fully understand the fiscal impacts and the required resources and staffing for two new departments,” Barger said.
“We should continuously strive to better meet the needs of our residents and businesses but must do so in concert with an understanding of the economic well-being of our region and our ability to establish these departments at this time,” she said.
Barger voted no Tuesday on two additional items that sought unrestricted general funds to increase the county’s arts grants and the affordable housing trust fund, totaling more than $10 million in county general fund dollars.
“The county is facing monumental economic upheaval created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting prolonged closures and healthcare costs,” Barger said. “The county should be even more judicious with taxpayers’ dollars and allocate funds accordingly. Unrestricted funds can be used in a variety of ways during this financial crisis, including to close the county’s current budget deficit and minimize future layoffs.“