News flash! Every week, following the Board meeting, Supervisor Kuehl picks five items you might find interesting, important, and/or fun. It’s your way to get a quick rundown of several highlights of the meeting in no more than 5 minutes! Looking for more? Click here to get the entire agenda.

Photo: The County Commission for Women has been awarding scholarships to hundreds of young women for nearly 20 years. This week, I had the pleasure of honoring three exceptional young women from the Third District who were this year’s recipients of the Resilience Scholarships, Alanie C. Abron, Alondra Chavarria, and Josephine R. Cuenca. Resilience Scholarships are exceptionally valuable as they allow the money to be used not only for tuition, but also for books, medical insurance, school supplies, childcare, and clothing

LA County Housing Innovation Fund

The Board voted this week to restructure the Los Angeles County Housing Innovation Fund II (LACHIF II), in order to further encourage the development of affordable housing in Los Angeles County.

LACHIF II is a $60 million public-private partnership that provides low-cost site acquisition and predevelopment financing to increase the development of affordable and supportive housing in the County of Los Angeles and its incorporated cities. Under the program, the Community Development Commission is a participating lender in direct loans made by LACHIF II’s three lending partners: the Low Income Investment Fund, Century Housing Corporation, and Corporation for Supportive Housing. These loans are available to both nonprofit and for-profit affordable housing developers.

The restructuring of LACHIF II will be based on suggestions drawn from a working group, consisting of representatives from the CDC and lending partners as well as a financial consultant. The group also consulted with affordable housing developers to determine the kinds of changes that would better meet their needs and encourage them to build more affordable housing in Los Angeles.

Data shows that these kinds of loans can help developers reduce their risk, and help the County achieve our goal of serving the community, efficiently and cost-effectively.

Expanding the Smoke-Free Ordinance

Los Angeles County has long recognized the public health risks associated with tobacco use and has adopted regulations to limit the exposure of residents to secondhand smoke. However, our County ordinances have not been updated since the recent increases in the popularity of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), vaping and the 2016 legalization of recreational marijuana consumption.

On Tuesday, the Board approved a motion I co-authored by Supervisor Hilda Solis seeking to eliminate these omissions by exploring ways in which the County can update its smoke-free ordinances to include e-cigarettes, vaping and marijuana, all of which can contain hazardous substances.

Disturbingly, both national and local data indicate that the use of e-cigarettes is a growing problem among our youth, with 1 in 4 students reporting using these products, which can contain dangerous carcinogens. Prohibiting electronic smoking devices and marijuana in smoke-free locations protects the public from all forms of secondhand smoke while simultaneously decreasing youth exposure to these chemicals.

The notion that e-cigarettes are ‘harmless’ is a dangerous falsehood that many of our young people are being fed. Not only do these products contain numerous substances on California Proposition 65’s list of chemicals, but studies have also shown that children who use these products are more likely to start smoking cigarettes. Furthermore, any smoking can impede our residents’ enjoyment of public spaces and even their own apartments. It is time to update the Smoke-Free ordinances to reflect current times.

Read: County Expands Smoke-Free Ordinance to E-Cigs, Marijuana

Center for Transportation Innovation

By passing a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Janice Hahn this week, the Board took another step in a broader effort to improve air quality and green our transportation infrastructure across Los Angeles County.

The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) was founded just six years ago but has quickly established itself as a global leader in advancing a new clean economy. One of the ideas to come out of the incubator is The Transportation Electrification Partnership, a collaborative effort among various government agencies, vehicle manufacturers like BMW and Tesla, and sustainability experts in academia and the nonprofit sector. The motion put forth this week instructs the Director of the Office of Sustainability to represent the County in this Partnership as part of the Leadership Group, which will create a zero-emission roadmap and a plan to develop and foster clean vehicle technologies and companies throughout the County.

Everybody knows LA is the car capital of the country. We have the freeways and the pollution to prove it. Now it’s time to turn LA County into the global leader for the new clean economy of the future. This motion, and our participation in this leading-edge partnership jumpstarts the vision to bring cleaner air and good sustainable jobs to the region!

Tele-Mental Health Services

I am very excited that the Board voted this week to extend a contract with USC Telehealth so that the County can continue to provide innovative care in the growing field of tele-mental health services!

Telehealth, a part of USC’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, is an online clinic that provides clients with “face-to-face” counseling and psychotherapy services through video conferencing. The provider and client connect from separate locations via a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Clients can join their virtual sessions from a private location such as their home or in professionally supervised offices called “tele-suites.” Services are provided in English and Spanish and offered as weekly 50-minute appointments over 12 weeks or more.

The Department of Mental Health is embarking on a pilot program with USC to see if the County might be able to use these tele-mental health services to meet the needs of older youth and young adults. In addition to providing convenience, tele-mental health services can be a gentle introduction to therapy for those experiencing anxiety or other issues that might make an in-office visit difficult.

Providing inventive mental health services like Telehealth can expand access to care, may even inspire more people to seek the help they need!

Renovating the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus

This week the Board approved a budget for the renovation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus. The campus will be completely revamped in an incredible and vital project initiated by my colleague Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas.

He has led the effort to create this new state-of-the-art behavioral health center, which will convert the 500,000-square foot old building into an inpatient and outpatient facility. In addition to substance abuse treatment, the facility will have other facilities related to mental/behavioral health care, including urgent care, an autism center, and a pediatric behavioral health center.

This project is a huge step in expanding health care services for the Watts, Willowbrook area, a community Supervisor Ridley-Thomas cares deeply for and one that has been underserved for far too long. I know Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and his staff have put a lot of work into this project, and I am excited to see their vision realized!