San Jose Mercury News: Prevention means a hand up, not a handout


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It is much cheaper in the long run

means a

to provide an expectant mother with
prenatal care than to care for an un
healthy baby.Investments in treat
ment for mental health out-patients
at an annual cost of $2,200 per pa
tient make much more fiscal sense

than housing the mentally ill in a jail
at a cost of $27,000 a year.

As Reed suggests, when resources

hand up,not

are scarce, priorities must be re-eval
uated. We Californians learned re

a handout

now outstripped funds dedicated to

“Supply and demand” are not usu
ally terms associated with govern
ment, since it is difficult to demon

to obtain the very skills necessary to
succeed in today’s high-tech job mar

strate that indeed a relationship ex
ists between the taxes used to finance

government services and the demand
of any one individual for services.
But as former Santa Clara County Ex

ecutive Sally Reed pointed out in her
July 9 commentary,“Scarce Resources

thev are concepts that govern-

ment — specifically, county governi^ent — will have to come to terms

with in an era of tight budgets and
soaring demand for services.
Of course, county governments are
not the only soldiers on this battle
field. The conflict between scarce

public resources and claims on those
resources is being played out at every

level, from City Hall to Capitol Hill.
While the problems that Reed con
fronts as chief administrative officer
of Los Angeles County loom on a

much grander scale, they neverthe
less represent a fundamental re-evaluation of government priorities that
began with the passage of Proposition
13 and continue today.

Our focus must be on creating a sol

id foundation for the long-term needs
of our communities, not on short-term
fixes that merely tide us over from

year to year. A long-term view means
addressing problems before they
reach the crisis stage, as they clearly
have in Los Angeles County. It means
directing our precious government re
sources toward preventive programs

that reduce the demand for more cost

ly government services.

cently that spending on prisons has

higher education. Is this the best use
of our limited government resources?
Is it prudent to reduce opportunities
ket when government is already

struggling to accommodate the needs
of the unemployed and uninsured?

“Prevention” is not a liberal code

word for more social progr^s. Rath
er, it is an approach to setting govern
ment priorities based on the premise
that it is wiser, both morally and fis
cally, to address community problems
at their root rather than focusing on
their costly aftermath.

The key to limiting demand on gov
ernment services is to provide each of
us with the tools to succeed and to

emphasize personal responsibility.
While Reed’s distinction between

“taxpayers and “taxtakers" may be
realistic, drawing a line between “us
and “them" is ultimately counterpro
ductive. As the provider of last re- .

sort, county government h^ a special
obligation to meet head-on issues of
poverty and despair that often result
in lifestyles replete with unhealthy
choices that destroy individual
dreams and burden the rest of us,
who must pay for the consequences.

Reed eloquently describes the crisis
faced by county governments in rec
onciling the dwindling supply of tax

payer dollars with the skyrocketing

demand for services that will force us
as a society to make agonizing choices
about whose needs to serve and
whose to ignore.

That time may have already come

for Los Angeles County. But in Santa
Clara County, while we still have the

opportunity, let’s give prevention a
trv. Our future depends on it.
— James T. Beall Jr.

Supervisor,Santa Clara County

Copyrighted material reprinted with permission. For educational use only.

SaUirdiiy. .Inly 15, 1995

A call to action from Supervisor Beall to use scarce government resources for efficient matters such as higher education over jails.

Credited Supervisors


James T. Beall

Content Type

Newspaper Article

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District 4


Jim Beall




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