Santa Cruz County First Five Commission
By 5th District Supervisor Mark Stone
Of the numerous assignments I have as a County Supervisor, the one that may be the most personally rewarding is my representing the Board of Supervisors on the Santa Cruz County First Five Commission. As a special, legislatively created Commission it is responsible for the development of programs that benefit children in their first five years of life – the crucial period of time that most affects their future growth and development.
First Five was enacted by State Proposition 10 in November 1998, as a Tobacco Tax dedicated to early childhood programs. It created a statewide First Five Commission, but more importantly it allocated a portion of the revenues to each County to develop its own local programs under the direction of a County First Five Commission. The Santa Cruz First Five Commission has been notable for its innovation, transparency, and inclusive decision making process. The original representative from the Fifth District was our own Mary Hammer.
The Commission has five community members appointed by each member of the County Board of Supervisors, as well as the heads of the County Health Services Agency and the County Human Services Department. I am honored to represent the Board of Supervisors on the Commission, which provides me the opportunity to advocate for the North County, an area very much in need of programs for our unique communities that tend to be overlooked by programs based in the central County. My Fifth District appointee is Beth Benjamin, who as a community organizer, long time resident of the San Lorenzo Valley, and active member of the Valley Women’s Club, brings an important perspective to the work of the Commission.
A major strength of the First Five structure is that is was created with an assured revenue source. However, funding based on a tobacco tax does diminish over time as anti-smoking campaigns become more effective, and more people stop smoking. With that in mind the Santa Cruz First Five has focused investment of its funds on some specific areas that will have maximum impact on childhood development. In general the Commission has emphasized health with an insurance coverage program that covers children from low income families, and school readiness with parental education programs that encourage involvement in children’s learning. One program encourages parents to read to their children (the Read To Me Project), that enhances preparation for school and educational success. This has been successfully carried on by the County Library system. You can find the specifics of our Strategic Plan and programs on the First Five website: www.first5scc.org.
I am very excited by a new concept emphasizing early childhood development raised by Dr. Salem Magarian, a pediatrician and Community member of the Commission from the 2nd District. Dr. Magarian has developed a program to provide tools for local pediatricians for the early identification of developmental delays. Early identification and connecting families to appropriate services is a major factor in reducing stresses on young families that can lead to dysfunction and abuse. It is a very positive example of the kind of creativity brought to the Commission of engaged community members.
The First Five Commission is an example of government at its best. The Commission utilizes precious tax revenues and provides effective programs that invest in the future of our youngest most valuable citizens, our children 0 to 5.
Helpful Health Care Website
If you’re as confused as the rest of us about all the changes to health insurance headed our way, you are not alone.
The Obama Administration has set up a useful Website that tries to make sense out of the healthcare bill that passed earlier this year and offers information about staying healthy: http://www.healthcare.gov.