California CARE Court bill heads to Newsom

Madison Hirneisein, The Center Square

31 de agosto de 2022

A man stands next to tents on a sidewalk in San Francisco, Tuesday, April 21, 2020.Jeff Chiu / AP

(The Center Square) – California lawmakers gave the final stamp of approval Wednesday to a bill backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom that provides court-ordered treatment plans and supportive services for people on the schizophrenia spectrum or with psychotic disorders.

The bill, which establishes the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act, received broad bipartisan support in both chambers of the Legislature, passing in a 62-2 vote in the Assembly and unanimously in the Senate. The bill now heads to Newsom’s desk.

“Today’s passage of the CARE Act means hope for thousands of Californians suffering from severe forms of mental illness who too often languish on our streets without the treatment they desperately need and deserve,” Newsom said in a statement Wednesday.

Backed by cities across the state and strongly opposed by disability rights advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union, the bill would let a person petition for a court-ordered plan that could include behavioral health care, medication, and housing. The petition triggers hearings to develop a treatment plan.

Adults experiencing a severe mental illness like schizophrenia and are either “unlikely to survive safely” without supervision or have a condition that requires support to prevent deterioration could qualify for the program. The CARE plan could last for up to two years, providing services like medication and treatment.

Newsom and others have touted the measure as a way to break the cycle of homelessness and incarceration among people with severe mental problems.

The measure has faced strong opposition from groups within California and across the nation who fear it will result in coerced treatment that would take away a person’s right to make their own care decisions.

Eric Harris, the director of Public Policy with Disability Rights California, told The Center Square Wednesday that the organization still has major concerns about the bill and is “disappointed” in its passage on Wednesday. 

“Forced treatment and not providing guaranteed housing is not going to be beneficial to a lot of these people,” Harris said. “We believe that voluntary treatment options that are robust and guarantee accessible, affordable housing is going to bring out the best results and have people who want to engage in this type of process.”

Harris said the bill was constructed without input from a “large number of disability leaders,” noting that leaders at Disability Rights California “weren’t consulted at all.”

The bill received several amendments in its final days in the Legislature, including one that phases in implementation. The counties of Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and the city and county of San Francisco must implement the program by Oct. 1, 2023. The rest of the state has until Dec. 1, 2024.

Other amendments require funding from the Department of Health Care Services and substitute the director of county behavioral health as the petitioner if someone other than the director petitions the court.

As the bill wound its way through the Legislature, lawmakers raised concerns about how the program would be funded and whether counties would have the staffing to handle the program. In the end, the bill won praise from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers for its potential to curb addiction and homelessness.

“This measure, I believe, is the first truly bipartisan attempt to compassionately clear homeless encampments off our streets, sidewalks and highways, to assess the health behavior and needs of homeless individuals and to put together an actual plan to stop the downward spiral that many homeless individuals have so long been on,” Senator Brian Jones, R-Santee, said Wednesday. 

Two lawmakers voted against the measure – Assemblymember Ash Kalra and Mark Stone. In a statement sent to The Center Square, Kalra said he could not support the bill because the program has “missing pieces needed for an effective, sustainable solution.”

“While I echo the urgency to find a solution, if we do not couple permanent housing and wraparound services for our unhoused with severe mental illness, we are setting them up for failure,” Kalra said. 

Newsom has until Sept. 30 to sign the legislation.

“El presente artículo es propiedad de The Center Square

Hirneisen, M. (2022). California CARE Court bill heads to Newsom. The Center Square. Recuperado el 01 de septiembre de 2022, de https://www.thecentersquare.com/california/california-care-court-bill-heads-to-newsom/article_f6f2586e-298c-11ed-bacd-338ce7bcf81f.html

Nueva ley espera evitar que centros de rehabilitación engañen

Columna: El proyecto de ley del senador estatal Pat Bates, que fue firmado por el gobernador Gavin Newsom, tiene como objetivo salvar vidas

Teri Sforza (tsforza@scng.com), Orange County Register, Excélsior California

24 de agosto de 2022

Rose and Allen Nelson hold an urn of their son Brandon’s ashes at their Santa Monica home on Sunday, October 21, 2018. Brandon died last March at age 26 after hanging himself in an unlicensed Sovereign Health home. Rose wears Brandon’s crosses. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

“¡Supervisado médicamente!” prometen tantos centros de tratamiento de adicciones, a pesar de que son explícitamente “no médicos”.

Matthew Maniace murió en un centro de desintoxicación de Lake Arrowhead que decía que estaba “supervisado clínicamente” y ofrecía “supervisión médica las 24 horas”. Lo mismo hicieron Terri Darling y James Dugas. En un delirio paranoico, Henry Richard Lehr salió de un centro de desintoxicación de Newport Beach que brindaba “servicios médicos incidentales” y entró en una casa cercana, donde el aterrorizado residente lo mató a tiros.

Es fácil confundir los centros de tratamiento de adicciones y salud mental con instalaciones médicas reales en California. Pero no cuentan con personal médico las 24 horas del día, los 7 días de la semana (y no se les permite). Por lo general, están ubicados en casas de barrios residenciales, y el requisito médico más estricto, puede ser la presencia de tiempo completo de alguien que sepa primeros auxilios.

Ahora el Proyecto de Ley del Senado 1665 del Senador Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, es un intento de desenredar la lógica enredada de las instalaciones no médicas que se jactan de sus servicios médicos, exageran las credenciales del personal o prometen servicios de nivel de medicamentos recetados cuando nadie el personal tiene licencia para recetar medicamentos. Fue promulgada como ley por el gobernador Gavin Newsom el lunes 22 de agosto.

SIN TRUCOS

Refina la Ley de Brandon, el proyecto de ley de Bates firmado por Newsom el año pasado, que prohíbe que los proveedores de tratamiento de adicciones y de salud mental, tergiversen o hagan afirmaciones descaradamente falsas sobre los servicios que ofrecen o dónde están ubicados. Esa fue una victoria largamente luchada por la familia de Bates y Nelson, y su significado parecía muy claro.

Pero algunos operadores han tratado de eludirlo usando sofismas, dijo Bates.

La nueva ley, que prohíbe expresamente que los programas de drogas o alcohol hagan declaraciones falsas o engañosas sobre los tratamientos médicos o los servicios ofrecidos.

“Estamos encantados de que el gobernador lo haya firmado”, dijo Bates. Pero tal vez no tan emocionado de que cada eructo y gorgoteo de lo que parece obvio y ético, deba explicarse explícitamente.

La intención de Bates siempre ha sido clara y simple: no quiere que las personas en crisis por adicciones y problemas de salud mental sean engañadas. Ella no quiere que se engañen sobre el tipo de ayuda que recibirán. Ella no quiere que los operadores exageren o mientan para enganchar a un cliente. Puede ser una cuestión de vida o muerte.

CUIDADO INEXISTENTE

Brandon Nelson había sufrido un brote psicótico debilitante y se le prometió la mejor atención en el ahora desaparecido Sovereign Health: sería monitoreado de cerca por un terapeuta autorizado y un psiquiatra, y recibiría terapia grupal y de otro tipo, les dijeron a sus padres. .

Pero Nelson terminó en un “centro de salud mental en el hogar para sobrios” sin licencia administrado por Sovereign, no recibió a tiempo los medicamentos recetados por el hospital que necesitaba, lo dejaron desatendido y usó sus pantalones de chándal para ahorcarse bajo el sistema de rociadores. Tenía 26 años cuando murió en 2018.

Este reportero, que ha pasado los últimos cinco años haciendo una crónica de las trágicas fallas en el sistema de tratamiento de adicciones de pago privado e impulsado por el dinero del seguro de California, pensó ingenuamente que la Ley Brandon impediría que las instalaciones no médicas afirmaran que brindan supervisión médica. Pero no.

Hay cientos de centros de tratamiento de adicciones y de salud mental oficialmente no médicos con licencia para proporcionar “servicios médicos incidentales” por parte del Departamento de Servicios de Atención Médica de California. No se les permite brindar atención médica primaria, pero pueden obtener historias clínicas, monitorear la salud de los pacientes para determinar si se necesita atención de emergencia, supervisar los medicamentos autoadministrados de los pacientes.

Estas instalaciones de IMS generalmente tienen una relación contractual con un médico, quien revisará la documentación del paciente dentro de las 72 horas posteriores a la admisión.

Por supuesto, los primeros días de desintoxicación son los más peligrosos. Lehr, Maniace y Darling estaban muertos antes de que hubieran pasado 72 horas.

Aún así, el DHCS dijo que estas instalaciones no médicas no infringieron la Ley de Brandon al afirmar que ofrecen supervisión médica.

“Las familias deben estar seguras de que sus seres queridos reciben la atención adecuada cuando comienzan su viaje hacia la recuperación”, dijo Bates en un comunicado. “Ahora que la SB 1165 es ley, espero que más personas se sientan lo suficientemente seguras como para entrar en tratamiento y superar su adicción”.

NOTA EN INGLÉS: Rehab Riviera: New law hopes to keep rehabs from misleading patients, families

“El presente artículo es propiedad de Excélsior California

Sforza, T. (2022). Nueva ley espera evitar que centros de rehabilitación engañen. Excélsior California. Recuperado el 25 de agosto de 2022, de https://www.excelsiorcalifornia.com/2022/08/24/nueva-ley-espera-evitar-que-centros-de-rehabilitacion-enganen/

From LA to Tennessee, unhoused activists and supporters are fighting a wave of anti-homeless legislation

With soaring rents pushing people onto the streets, those struggling just to survive are taking a stand against bills criminalizing homelessness.

This article was originally published on Waging Nonviolence.

Sara Herschander, Waging Nonviolence

12 de agosto de 2022

As soaring rents force many out of their homes, advocates across the country are battling a slew of state and local measures that criminalize homelessness and imperil those living on the street.

Police in riot gear stormed the chambers of a Los Angeles City Council meeting on Tuesday after one protester climbed a bench to confront Council President Nury Martinez over an ordinance banning homeless encampments near schools and daycares.

Martinez briefly recessed the meeting as dozens of activists chanted “Abolish 41.18!” — a reference to the ordinance. Last week, around 70 protesters shut down a council vote over the same measure, carrying signs with messages like “If I die unhoused – forget burial – just drop my body on the steps of L.A. City Hall.”

As inflation reaches 40-year highs, pandemic-related eviction protections expire and longstanding housing shortages reach their breaking point, America’s homelessness crisis has become increasingly dire and difficult to ignore. The number of people living unsheltered — whether in cars, parks or in tents on the sidewalk — accounted for nearly 40 percent of the country’s total homeless population last year, its highest level in a decade.

After police ejected protesters on Tuesday, the council voted 11-3 to massively expand the so-called 41.18 zones, which advocates say will now criminalize homelessness in up to a fifth of the city. 

“We knew that we weren’t going to get anyone to change their vote — but we wanted to take a stand,” said Ground Game LA co-founder and Outreach Director Ashley Bennett, who has been present at the actions against ordinance 41.18. “We’re showing that we’re present, we’re here, and we deserve to be heard.”

Across the country, some cities have implemented even more extreme regulations against living unhoused.

Last month, Tennessee became the first state in the nation to make it a felony to camp in parks and other public property, punishable by up to six years in prison and the loss of voting rights. Meanwhile, Texas passed a similar measure making homelessness a misdemeanor last year.

As Momma V, who lives in a tent in Tennessee, told CNN, “They’re trying to run us out of Nashville. We’re out here homeless. We’re trying to struggle to make it, and they’re just trying to make it worse on all of us by criminalizing it.”

Over the past two years, lawmakers in six states have also introduced bills criminalizing homelessness by making sleeping on public property a misdemeanor — punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a month in jail — and installing temporary public tent cities. 

The bills are modeled largely after draft legislation published by the Cicero Institute, a Texas-based think tank founded by the billionaire co-founder of Palantir, whose controversial technology has been used for migrant surveillance systems and predictive policing.

Even in relatively progressive cities like Los Angeles, Bennett criticized policymakers’ persistence on implementing “band-aid” solutions that fail to address the root causes of homelessness — namely, a lack of housing, widespread discrimination against voucher holders, and a flawed and inadequate shelter and services system.

“People have a deep innate desire to have the space to go home and feel safe and secure and protected,” said Bennett, who noted that many unhoused people have had negative experiences in the shelter system. “Instead of calling people service-resistant, we need to ask why these services aren’t working.”

https://wagingnonviolence.matomo.cloud/matomo.php?idsite=1&rec=1&action_name=REPUBLISHED%20From+LA+to+Tennessee%2C+unhoused+activists+and+supporters+are+fighting+a+wave+of+anti-homeless+legislation&bots=1

“El presente artículo es propiedad de Waging Nonviolence

Herschander, S. (2022). From LA to Tennessee, unhoused activists and supporters are fighting a wave of anti-homeless legislation. Waging Nonviolence. Recuperado el 18 de agosto de 2022, de https://wagingnonviolence.org/2022/08/unhoused-activists-supporters-fight-anti-homeless-legislation/

As wildfires grow, so does California’s housing and homelessness crisis: Hidden Epidemics

Claudia Boyd-Barrett, The Mendocino Voice

04 de agosto de 2022

This story was produced as part of a collaboration with the Center for Public IntegrityColumbia Journalism InvestigationsType Investigations and the California Health Report and is republished with permission. You can read previous parts of the Hidden Epidemics series hereand you can also learn more about how to get prepared in our wildfire and emergency guide here.

At an assistance center for wildfire survivors in Quincy, Californians lined up to speak with Matt Plotkin and other relief staff. One after another, they told the stories of how their homes had burned to the ground.

A couple stepped forward. They had lost it all too, they explained.

But it wasn’t the first time.

Their rental housing burned in the 2018 Camp Fire, which destroyed their hometown of Paradise. Then they moved to the small community of Berry Creek, only to be displaced two years later in the 2020 North Complex Fire. The following year, after settling in nearby Plumas County, the Dixie Fire left them homeless again.

The couple, who had lost three houses in three separate fires over the course of four years, became, for Plotkin, the faces of the coming crisis for California — where annual wildfires leave more people without homes in a state already squeezed dry of affordable places to live.

“What do you tell these people?” said Plotkin, who works for United Way of Northern California. “It’s just so heartbreaking when you hear they tried to restore and recover themselves in a new community and then that community gets wiped out, and then they go to another one and that gets wiped out.”

A disaster services manager, Plotkin helps wildfire survivors find housing and resources. But bigger and more frequent wildfires are making his job harder.  

With each loss, Plotkin said, the trauma “just magnifies.”

As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of wildfires in California and throughout the West, more people are losing their homes and facing long-term displacement and instability, including homelessness. This week, the massive McKinney fire is swallowing homes and forest land indiscriminately in Siskiyou County, forcing thousands to evacuate. Some, like the families Plotkin regularly encounters, are reliving the trauma of losing a home to wildfires multiple times. Those with fewer assets and resources are most at risk of losing housing due to wildfires, particularly renters, people without adequate property insurance and those with informal living arrangements (who live in trailers on someone else’s property or live with multiple families, for example). These individual struggles exacerbate the confluence of three statewide crises: destruction wrought by climate change, a severe lack of affordable housing and the many Californians experiencing homelessness.

Researchers and those who work with disaster victims said there is insufficient government assistance to help the most vulnerable wildfire survivors find long-term, stable housing. There also isn’t enough housing to accommodate California’s swelling population of wildfire refugees. Solutions, experts said, must tackle both of these problems.

Wildfires and the destruction they cause have become a societal problem, and like all societal problems, those with more resources are better equipped to recover. Californians who are dealing with other pressing needs, such as putting food on the table or paying rent, do not always have the ability to plan for catastrophic fires, or the financial resources to withstand disruptions to their housing arrangements. The result is that low-wage workers, seniors on fixed incomes, people of color, immigrants, those with disabilities and many other Californians — who are already impacted by the legacy of social, economic and environmental inequities — are being further left behind. California is, in many ways, becoming a state where the wealthy can weather climate change while the rest struggle to survive.

More than 3,600 structures, including homes, burned in California wildfires during 2021. Between 2005 and 2020, nearly 60,000 structures were lost to fire in the state, according to the research firm Headwaters Economics. Some of these are rentals, which landlords may choose not to rebuild. Others are uninsured or underinsured homes that property owners can’t afford to reconstruct. Even property owners who get insurance payouts may decide to find a home elsewhere. Others can face a years-long wait for permit approvals and construction completion. The result is thousands of more Californians looking for housing in an already strained market.

In rural Trinity County, large wildfires have displaced hundreds of residents since 2017, said Sheri White, executive director of Human Response Network, a nonprofit organization in Weaverville. Many of those without the means to rebuild or find a new rental have moved in with family or left the area altogether. Others are living in travel trailers her organization provided as a temporary solution because they have been unable to find a permanent place to live.

“If they want to stay in Trinity County, it’s extremely difficult to find a place to stay,” she said. “Renting up here can be expensive. We have rentals that are $1,600 a month, and that’s kind of expensive if you are working a minimum wage job or living on social security or retirement alone and you don’t have a larger retirement.”

Elsewhere in the state, especially in the larger cities and coastal areas, rent can easily cost double that amount. The cost of housing is astronomical for many Californians. Median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego areas, for example, is $3,500 monthly or more.

Housing and rent prices have risen in communities where people have fled after losing their homes to wildfires. This happened in Chico in Butte County following the Camp Fire in 2018, which destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.  The city has witnessed an increase in poverty and long-term homelessness, straining social services.

Yet while communities face enormous long-term repercussions after a wildfire, state and federal government funding mostly tackles short-term fire suppression and cleanup costs, according to a report by Headwater Economics. Almost half of all wildfire costs — including home reconstruction — are borne by local people, municipal agencies, businesses and nonprofits, the report found.

In Trinity County after the Helena Fire, for example, White’s organization raised donations from individuals and businesses to cover the cost of the travel trailers and other support for fire victims. But more funding is needed to help people long term.

“It would be really helpful to get some federal funding to assist people in finding housing, assist people with some of the cleanup for their property so they can start the rebuilding process,” she said.

Whether federal help is available for fire victims also depends on if a fire is large and destructive enough to be declared a federal disaster. Even then, renters and people without home insurance receive a limited amount of help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Uninsured homeowners whose properties are destroyed can get a maximum of $34,900 — generally not enough to buy another home in California. Renters, especially those who did not have formal rental contracts or arrangements, often struggle to get any FEMA money at all, Plotkin said.  Those who are undocumented are ineligible to receive FEMA aid.

Finding solutions

So far, community and government responses to wildfires have focused on rebuilding in the same location, “hardening” homes to increase fire resistance and creating “defensible space” around fire-prone homes and neighborhoods by removing flammable materials. But in an age of runaway climate change, some experts believe that’s no longer enough. Instead, they said some Californians will need to retreat entirely from wildfire prone areas.

Families like the one Plotkin described are already leaving, albeit involuntarily and without sufficient support or housing alternatives. Some others who are still living in areas impacted by wildfires want to move. A 2021 Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that about 1 in 6 Americans who reported noticing more extreme weather in their areas are considering moving.

To avoid further wildfire-induced homelessness and destabilization of the housing market, policymakers must figure out how to better manage this retreat, experts said. Suggestions include using federal disaster funds to pay for voluntary relocation, building denser and more affordable housing in urban centers largely protected from wildfires, and using insurance or tax incentives to encourage reconstruction and new housing development in safer locations.

“In many of these places we can’t really manage our way out of wildfires,” said Emily Schlickman, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of California, Davis, who has studied the impacts of fires on Butte County’s housing supply, including in Chico where homelessness has ballooned since the Camp Fire.

“I think what’s happening in Butte County is kind of a glimpse of what’s to come in the rest of the state,” Schlickman said.

Some of this managed relocation could be accomplished using FEMA dollars, Schlickman said. The agency could offer voluntary buyouts for homes destroyed or at severe risk for wildfires, just as it has in some coastal areas of the state prone to flooding. In some cases, it may be necessary to relocate entire communities.

At the same time, California must invest more in building affordable and dense housing in urban centers, said Robert B. Olshansky, an expert in urban planning and lead author on a report by the UC Berkeley Center for Community Innovation, commissioned by the nonprofit advocacy group Next 10.

“Providing more housing units … and more affordable units in central places accessible to services will not only help us continue to meet the well-known housing goals for the state, but also actually help us to address the fire problem,” he said.

His report also suggests using property tax and fire insurance surcharges to discourage people from building or buying property in fire prone areas, although Olshansky said this must include caveats to ensure low-income residents in those areas are not further disadvantaged.

Meanwhile, Californians continue to move into wildfire-prone areas for a variety of reasons, including to find a lower-cost housing or to live closer to nature. The state has issued moratoriums to prohibit insurance companies from dropping coverage for homes in areas impacted by wildfires. And the state has been slow to build more homes that people can afford.

What’s more, while a data analysis by Columbia Journalism Investigations shows

California received over $1.55 billion in FEMA funds to mitigate disaster risks between 1991 and 2021, none of this money has been used to move people out of the way of wildfires through property buyouts (although $56 million in federal funds has been used to acquire properties impacted by other types of disasters such as river and coastal flooding), FEMA did fund $66.6 million in wildfire mitigation projects in California during that time period, with the vast majority of funds spent on reducing fire risks, such as by clearing vegetation around properties and retrofitting buildings.

In an email, Rosa C. Norman with FEMA’s Communications Division said agency funding can be used to acquire properties endangered by wildfires, but this requires an application from the state, tribe, or territory in which the property is located, the consent of each property owner, and FEMA approval. No one can be forced to take a buyout for their property, she noted.

Brian Ferguson, deputy director for crisis communication and public affairs with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said the state has led the nation in recent years by creating a disaster preparedness outreach and education program, and through investments in hardening homes and communities against wildfires. However, the state is not looking at moving people out of wildfire zones through property buyouts as it poses both moral and practical challenges, he said.

“Our government has a long history of displacing people, particularly vulnerable populations, people of color in the name of progress, whether that be for placing our freeways or for other sorts of governmental initiatives,” he said. “I think we would be very thoughtful or cautious before engaging in any sort of program of moving individuals out of their historic community.”

At the same time, the number of people living in areas at risk for wildfires is enormous. Between 8 and 10 million Californians live in the “wildland urban interface” – the areas between forests and urban centers. Moving that number of people away from their homes isn’t practical, Ferguson said. Additionally, many Californians want to live in these areas despite the fire risk, he added.

That said, counties and other local jurisdictions can still choose to apply to FEMA for grants that fund property acquisitions if they choose.

Schlickman said she’s hopeful governments will invest more in moving people out of harm’s way. In Paradise, a pilot program managed by the city’s recreation department and funded largely by nonprofit grants and donations is experimenting with offering voluntary buyouts. Chico is coming up with ways to expand affordable housing, including by creating tiny home communities.

“There’s a big push for us to get really creative,” Schlickman said. “I think the wheels are turning.”

Meanwhile, the United Way of Northern California continues to pour resources into helping fire survivors, such as the couple in Quincy. Last year alone the organization provided more than $1.6 million in financial assistance to over 1,000 families affected by the Camp fire, North Complex fire and 2021 wildfires, including the couple in Quincy. But it’s not enough to help everyone who needs it, Plotkin said. And with the threat of more wildfires looming in the heat-and-drought-stricken state, he worries it could get increasingly challenging for philanthropic organizations to raise funds after each new disaster.

“We’re getting to a place in our society where disaster fatigue is real,” Plotkin said.

“El presente artículo es propiedad de The Mendocino Voice

Boyd-Barrett, C. (2022).As wildfires grow, so does California’s housing and homelessness crisis: Hidden Epidemics. The Mendocino Voice. Recuperado el 06 de agosto de 2022, de https://mendovoice.com/2022/08/as-wildfires-grow-so-does-californias-housing-and-homelessness-crisis-hidden-epidemics/

Ante niveles peligrosos de contaminación, senadora de California llama a desaparecer la Junta Estatal del Agua

La senadora estatal Melissa Hurtado pidió desaparecer la Junta Estatal del Agua ante la lentitud para responder a las necesidades de las comunidades.

Univisión, con información de Paola Virrueta

06 de agosto de 2022

Una reciente auditoria ha alertado a algunos condados de California sobre niveles peligrosos e inseguros de contaminación del agua potable.

Ante ello, la senadora Melissa Hurtado está haciendo un llamado para eliminar, o al menos renovar, la Junta Estatal del Agua, pues asegura que es anticuada e incapaz de abordar una situación que califica como urgente.

En California, más de 900 mil personas corren el riesgo de contraer cáncer, problemas hepáticos y renales, ya que reciben agua potable de uno de los más de 370 sistemas que no cumplen con los estándares de calidad, según una auditoria presentada esta semana.

“La semana pasada el auditor estatal anunció en un nuevo reporte que el comité que controla el agua potable para las comunidades no está haciendo lo suficiente para dar agua potable saludable”, dijo Hurtado.

“Son casi un millón de personas que están en riesgo de tener cáncer, problemas renales y otros problemas de salud”, agregó.

Debido a esta situación, la senadora introdujo el proyecto de ley SB 1219 que busca disolver la Junta Estatal del Agua.

“Sigo en esta lucha para tratar de asegurar que los comités estatales hagan lo necesario para que las comunidades tengan los recursos que necesitan para sobrevivir”, señaló.

Hurtado señaló que las comunidades necesitan más infraestructura para servicios de agua, lo que requiere dinero y este trámite es complicado debido a la burocracia.

“Hay comunidades que yo represento que están durando de 3 hasta 15 años para tener agua potable saludable y todos tiene que ver con el proceso en el estado de California y el Comité de Agua”, señaló.

Hurtado dijo que ha enfrentado una posición fuerte en el Capitolio para que se apruebe su propuesta de disolver la Junta de Agua de California porque hay muchos intereses de por medio y porque hay quienes piensan que el estado actual del manejo del agua es el adecuado.

“Yo he escuchado en mis comunidades que necesitamos hacer cambios, pero los cambios que se necesitan son a nivel estatal”, señaló.

Hurtado dijo que al menos 20 departamentos tienen que ver los asuntos relacionados con el agua potable, por lo que hacer gestiones en este sentido es complicado.

Y añadió que para comunidad que no tiene con los recursos suficientes, emprender este recorrido burocrático es complicado.

La senadora indicó que las leyes que regulan el agua en California fueron escritas entre 1920 y 1940, cuando la población del estado era de 20 millones y actualmente hay 20 millones.

“Debemos tener un sistema que trabaje en el tiempo en el que estamos, representando a la cantidad de personas que viven en el estado”, indicó.

Al igual que la senadora Hurtado, el auditor estatal interino Michael Tilden criticó a los reguladores de la Junta Estatal del Agua por no otorgar la asistencia necesaria y urgente a los sistemas de agua que están presentando problemas.

Más de 150 de esos sistemas no han cumplido con los estándares de calidad durante por lo menos cinco años, y aproximadamente 430, que atienden a por lo menos 1 millón de personas, corren el riesgo de presentar complicaciones.

Por su parte, Joaquín Esquivel, presidente de la Junta Estatal del Agua, habló sobre los resultados de la auditoría sobre el estado del agua potable.

Dijo estar consciente de que deben mejorar los procesos y acortar el tiempo de atención en los condados con más problemas.

“Sabemos que tenemos mucho por hacer y también tenemos que poder quadruplicar el número de solicitudes ante la junta y casi duplicar las construcciones de infraestructura”, indicó.

Esquivel aseguró que han incrementado el número de personal técnico para ayudar a las comunidades en los últimos tres años.

Según el informe, más de dos tercios de los sistemas de agua que fallan están ubicados en comunidades de bajos ingresos, principalmente en ocho condados del Valle Central, el condado de San Bernardino y el condado de Imperial, lo que obliga a los residentes a comprar agua embotellada.

Según la ley estatal, todos los californianos tienen derecho a agua segura, limpia, asequible y accesible, algo que no se está cumpliendo en algunos condados.

Entre las recomendaciones de esta auditoria para la junta del agua, esta eliminar la burocracia y pasos innecesarios en los proceso de solicitud de servicios y acelerar los proyectos que se consideren especialmente urgentes.

Para conocer recursos y programas disponibles sobre el agua potable puedes visitar la página de California Water Boards.

Con información de Paola Virrueta.

“El presente artículo es propiedad de Univisión

Univisión. (2022). Ante niveles peligrosos de contaminación, senadora de California llama a desaparecer la Junta Estatal del Agua. Univisión. Recuperado el 06 de agosto de 2022, de https://www.univision.com/local/san-francisco-kdtv/politica-area-de-la-bahia/senadora-california-melissa-hurtado-llama-desaparecer-junta-estatal-agua