County Behavioral Health Services Director Luke Bergmann speaks to members of the media about the CARE Act program at the County Administration Center in downtown on Sept. 27, 2023.
County Behavioral Health Services Director Luke Bergmann speaks to members of the media about the CARE Act program at the County Administration Center in downtown on Sept. 27, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

A forthcoming state law expanding eligibility for involuntary treatment will make it possible to compel people with severe substance use disorders into care via conservatorships. 

San Diego County’s behavioral health director is among those locally predicting that SB 43, which is for now set to take effect in January, could fuel a spike in instances where police are transporting people to local emergency rooms for short-term holds that are likely to conclude after they sober up.

Our Lisa Halverstadt reports that all of this is expected to put more pressure on a treatment system now often unable to deliver even for those who desperately want to begin the recovery process.

The possibility: In an ideal world, SB 43 could lead to rapid connections with continued, voluntary addiction treatment after those patients sober up and are deemed no longer gravely disabled or a danger to themselves or others. But care often isn’t available on demand for people with Medi-Cal insurance, meaning that absent a dramatic increase in new treatment options, the law could lead more low-income and homeless San Diegans to cycle through ERs without accessing care they desperately need. 

A request to tap the brakes: The lobbying group for San Diego hospitals is urging San Diego County supervisors to pull a lever in the state law allowing for an up to two-year postponement to prepare for the expected influx of people into ERs and ensure treatment is available. County supervisors including Chairwoman Nora Vargas have declined to comment on what they may be considering. 

The argument to press forward: San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and others argue the new mandate is needed to ensure potentially life-saving treatment for vulnerable people with behavioral health conditions whose challenges are exacerbating other health conditions and threatening their safety.

Read the full story here. 

Hope for Cleaner South Bay Beaches on Horizon

Tijuana River
A tributary near the U.S.-Mexico border where sewage from Tijuana flows through. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

Water quality data shows bacteria levels in the ocean along South Bay beaches have been hundreds of times over what’s considered safe for human health this past week. 

The culprit, per usual, is sewage flowing from Mexico into the Tijuana River which empties into the Pacific Ocean just south of San Diego’s southernmost cities. But the people who manage wastewater infrastructure in the U.S.-Mexico border say respite is nigh.

Next month, Tijuana’s wastewater agency is set to restore a ruptured sewage main that snapped in half last August. When that happens, sewage has only two places to go: The Tijuana River or an overworked treatment plant on the U.S. side of the border.

Could we see fewer beach closures? A lot depends on the installation of this new sewer main across Matadero Canyon in Tijuana. Once that’s fixed, workers will build a wall of sand across the Tijuana River to try and stop any excess flow from reaching the U.S. 

Read more here.

Oops! Don’t Let Us Stop You From a Good Read

View of an irrigation ditch in Imperial Valley on Oct. 10, 2023.
View of an irrigation ditch in Imperial Valley on Oct. 10, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

A link in yesterday’s Morning Report was broken for the story on How Imperial Valley Spends San Diego’s Cash for Water. Our environment reporter MacKenzie Elmer traveled to Imperial Valley to report this fascinating story and it’s absolutely worth reading. 

Read the story here. 

Bonus! Sign up for Elmer’s Environment Report to keep up with her water, power and environment coverage. She’s following some of the region’s biggest stories and most pressing issues. Subscribe here.  

In Other News

  • County officials asked businesses and organizations to volunteer space on their property for emergency housing options for unhoused San Diegans. The county opened a grant that would help purchase sleeping cabins, a program approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in 2022. (NBC 7)
  • The Pacific Beach community is putting on its big girl pants and requiring people start paying for parking at meters installed two months ago. (NBC 7)
  • Animal rights advocates complained about plans to hold a local rodeo at Petco Park in January, which is slated to attract top cowboys like Stetson Wright and Rocker Steiner. They’re lobbying the mayor and City Council to cancel the event or approve an ordinance banning the use of animal torture devices during rodeos. The central committee of the county Democratic Party unanimously resolved to condemn the event last month. (Union-Tribune)

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and MacKenzie Elmer. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. 

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