County budget includes new mental healthcare facilities

(Reggie Ellis)

The county’s administrative offices meet to review this past year’s budget and discuss future plans for this upcoming fiscal year, which includes two new healthcare facilities

TULARE COUNTY – The Tulare County Administrative Offices have reviewed their budget for this upcoming year, revealing an increase in funds and plans for two mental health facilities.

On Sept. 18, Jason T. Britt, the county’s administrative officer, went over the successes of Tulare County’s 2022-2023 budget during the office’s annual preview of the recommended budget meeting, and detailed the county’s goals for this upcoming year.

“Like usual, the county has ended in a very strong financial position for 2022-23,” he said. “We’ve supported economic development activities, enhanced public safety, completed a number of capital projects and building improvements, (ending) our year with a general unassigned fund balance of $68.2 million.”

Britt went on to list several of the county’s accomplishments, including the allocation of $1 million for the construction of a new morgue, $7 million to the Capital Improvement Plan, and $2 million to the Homelessness and Community Activity Fund.  The county’s 2022-23 fiscal year wrapped up on June 30.

The total budget for this upcoming fiscal year will be $1.98 billion, a $154.3 million increase from the previous fiscal year. The general fund budget will be $1.2 billion, and saw a similar increase of $133.8 million. 

During the 23-24 fiscal year, the county plans to create two new health facilities, which they will use to better serve individuals who are suffering from various mental illnesses.

“The county region recently completed purchase of the old Casa Grande assisted living facility…and we intend to use that 96-bed facility for a combination of mental health programs, primarily augmented boarding care,” Britt said. “That’s going to expand our ability to serve individuals with either acute mental health illnesses or substance abuse use disorder.”

With the assistance of a state grant, the county will also be receiving a new urgent care center, which will specifically cater to behavioral health.

“The behavioral health urgent care is a big accomplishment,” Britt said. “That’s going to be another facility that will allow people to seek assistance, before they get to that crisis stage.”

The mental health supportive housing facility will use $10.6 million of the 23-24 funds, and the second facility, the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Facility Hillman Campus, will use $9.2 million.

For the remaining funds, the County Transit Improvement Program will be allocated $74.6 million; the county Transit will also receive five new CNG (compressed natural gas) buses ($1.8 million). Other projects to note include the ARPA funded Parks Improvement ($6.5 million), the main jail demolition ($5.3 million), and the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office training facility ($8 million).

Another highlight from the budget is the official acquisition of the 8040 W. Doe building, which the county has been leasing the Child Support Services Department.

“There was an opportunity for us to purchase (the 8040 W. Doe building) instead of continuing leasing it, as we have done for the last several decades,” Britt said. “We expect the Department of Child Support Services will continue to be housed there.”

Ultimately, the $1.9 billion will be split between eight different categories. Health and human services ($959.9 million), public safety ($334.9 million), internal operations ($303.8 million), transportation ($139.7 million), general government and operations ($133.6 million), land use and development ($50.2 million), assessment/special districts and solid waste ($42.5 million) and agriculture, fish and wildlife ($12.2 million).

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