Category Archives: News and Notes

March for reproductive justice held in Ventura

The event was spearheaded by the Women’s March national organization. Photo by Patricia Schallert

The Supreme Court signaled it is prepared to dismantle women’s reproductive rights when it refused to stop Texas’ SB 8, which made abortion illegal after six weeks and instituted a bounty system on violators. On December 1st the Court is scheduled to hear Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a Mississippi case which prohibits abortion after 15 weeks.

“Roe v Wade is under attack like never before in its 50-year history,” said Miriam Mack, Justice For All Ventura County Board Member. “Our march, along with marches in over 600 communities across the country, is intended to show the Court that a woman’s right to control her reproductive destiny is a human right that must be protected.”

Hundreds of Ventura County women (and men) marched on Saturday, October 2, at noon at Ventura City Hall. Marching were Justice For All Ventura County, along with the Ventura County Reproductive Rights Network, Planned Parenthood, Indivisible Ventura, Women United for Change and others. They marched to the State Court of Appeals Building at Santa Clara Street and Figueroa Plaza.

The effort is spearheaded by the Women’s March national organization and is intended to send a message to the Supreme Court that 77% of the country wants to preserve the protections of Roe v Wade and state legislative actions to limit that right cannot stand.

The march was disciplined and peaceful and the signs sent a clear message that the protections of Roe v Wade must be preserved.

For more information go to https://justiceforallvc.org/.

Education to facilitate changes for the better for people with mental illness

by Carol Leish MA

“On September 8, 2021” according to Mary Haffner, an advocate for people with mental illness, “NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Advocacy Group held a countywide Town Hall to address the needs of people with mental illness.”

During the Town Hall, it was discussed that: “Because of the gaps in services to people with mental illness, the Ventura County Behavioral Health Advisory Board recently passed a unanimous motion requesting that the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approve an independent assessment regarding the continuum of care for people with severe mental illness. Through this comprehensive assessment, it will become possible to reduce the number of people who continue to cycle through successive hospitalizations, incarcerations, and homelessness. Other counties in California have conducted similar assessments and the California State Auditor has recommended that all counties do so, too.”

The NAMI Town Hall also focused on the fact that, ‘The gaps in Ventura County are significant, from crisis care to long-term care. As for crisis care, Ventura County has no psychiatric facility that can directly admit psychiatric emergencies. Someone in crisis with a psychiatric emergency must first wait in a general hospital emergency room. However, other California counties have facilities that allow them to pass hospital emergency rooms so that they can receive prompt treatment. In addition, Ventura County has only 8 chairs for crisis stabilization. For a county of 846,000, this is woefully deficient. As for long-term care, Ventura County has only one 43-bed locked facility, which is currently staffed for 36 patients (July, 14, 2021 ‘Ventura Breeze’: ‘Expansion of Hillmont Psychiatric Unit alleviates waits for patients in crisis.’). There are few Board and Cares, and not enough supportive housing to support long-term rehabilitation and care. As a result, people who need a higher level of care may end up at a sober living home with inadequate supports, thus setting them up for relapse and getting caught up in the cycle again.”

“Ventura County appears to have the second highest percentage of inmates classified as ‘open mental health cases,’ according to a review of the latest numbers from the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC),” according to the NAMI Town Hall. “With no needed intercept model diversion program, and a dire lack of crisis care, and very few options for long-term treatment and housing, people with severe mental illness cycle into either jail or homelessness.”

Haffner believes that, “We don’t do more to help those with severe mental health issues because I believe that discrimination and stigma play a big role in our society’s failure to provide adequate treatment. We have normalized the jailing of people with mental illness and we have too many people who don’t want any treatment facilities in their communities. This is why leadership is so important. We need leaders who understand the illness and who are willing to educate the public and work towards solutions.”

Civil Grand Jury in session – public complaints welcome

The Ventura County Civil Grand Jury is a panel of 19 local citizen volunteers established to investigate complaints about government mismanagement, verify that public funds are properly accounted for and legally spent, and investigate the policies, practices and processes of county or city departments. Civil Grand Jury investigations can be generated from public complaints.

Complaint forms in English or Spanish may be downloaded from the Grand Jury website http://grandjury.countyofventura.org and submitted by fax to (805) 658-4523, or you can also mail your written complaint to:

Ventura County Grand Jury, 800 S. Victoria Ave. L#3751,Ventura, CA 93009

For more information about the Grand Jury and how it works for you https://ventura.org/grand-jury/

Donor turnout sharply declines while patient needs remain high

The American Red Cross is experiencing an emergency blood and platelet shortage and must collect 10,000 additional blood products each week over the next month for the blood supply to recover and meet hospital and patient needs. Donors of all blood types – especially type O – and platelet donors are urged to make an appointment to give now and, in the weeks, ahead to overcome this current shortage.

Blood donor turnout has reached the lowest levels of the year as many delayed giving amid a return to the workplace and in-person learning, as well as a recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the country due to the delta variant. As cases spiked in August, blood donor participation decreased about 10%, but blood product distributions to hospitals have remained strong, significantly outpacing blood donations in recent weeks.

The national Red Cross blood inventory is the lowest it’s been at this time of year since 2015, with less than a day’s supply of certain blood types in recent weeks. The supply of types O positive and O negative blood, the most needed blood types by hospitals, dropped to less than a half-day supply at times over the last month − well below the ideal five-day supply.

Don’t wait. People across the country depend on the generosity of blood donors. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

All those who come to donate in October will receive a link by email to claim a free Zaxby’s® Signature Sandwich reward or get a $5 e-gift card to a merchant of their choice.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive.

10/7/2021: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Ventura County Credit Union, 2575 Vista Del Mar Drive, #100

10/12/2021: 11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Ventura Center for Spiritual Living, 101 S Laurel St

Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass®. With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass®, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

Choose the right car seat

The Ventura Police Department joins the California Office of Traffic Safety to raise awareness about the importance of keeping children in the correct car seat for their age and size.

During Child Passenger Safety Week, September 19-25, the Ventura Police Department will conduct child passenger safety enforcement to ensure drivers are securing children in the correct safety seat for every trip, each time.

“Motor vehicle injuries remain one of the leading causes of preventable deaths among children. Getting a car seat professionally checked and learning how to properly install it can prevent childhood injuries and protect the youngest passengers in our communities,” said Sergeant Mike Brown.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 46% of car sears are not installed correctly.

Under California law, children under two weighing less than 40 pounds and less than 40 inches tall are required to be in a rear-facing car seat. Children under the age of eight or less than 4’ 9” tall must be secured in a car or booster seat. The fine for not securing a child in the correct child safety seat is $490.

Parents and caregivers can schedule a free car seat installation or car seat check by appointment only at the local Ventura California Highway Patrol (CHP) office by visiting www.CHP.ca.gov or calling 805-662-2640.

Funding for this program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. To learn more about the Office of Traffic Safety grant and VPD’s educational efforts, visit www.OTS.ca.gov or contact Emily Graves, Community Outreach Specialist with the Ventura Police Department, at egraves@cityofventura.ca.gov.

Ventura County Public Health extends indoor mask order

Ventura County Public Health has extended the indoor mask order, requiring all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings when indoors in public settings, with limited exceptions. The order will continue to be in effect until October 19, 2021 or until it is extended, rescinded, superseded, or amended by the Health Officer. “Our current case rate of 19.3 is still considered widespread community transmission by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health,” said Public Health Officer Doctor Robert Levin. “We need to see a continued decrease in the case rate and hospitalizations before safely lifting indoor masking requirements to help prevent future surges.”

The order directs that face coverings must be worn over the mouth and nose – regardless of vaccination status – in all indoor public settings, venues, gatherings, and workplaces, including but not limited to offices, retail stores, restaurants and bars, theaters, family entertainment centers, conference and event centers, and government offices serving the public.

Individuals, businesses, venue operators, hosts, and others responsible for the operation of indoor public settings must:

  • Require all patrons to wear face coverings for all indoor settings, regardless of their vaccination status; and
  • Post clearly visible and easy-to-read signage at all entry points for indoor settings to communicate the masking requirements to all patrons. Signage is provided by Ventura County Public Health at www.vcrecovers.org.

This health order aims to reduce community transmission of COVID-19. Health officials are concerned by the substantial levels of increased community transmission, especially among unvaccinated people. In part, this is due to the widespread COVID-19 Delta variant, which is substantially more transmissible than previous forms of the virus. Recent information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also indicates that even fully vaccinated individuals can in some cases spread the Delta variant to others, and so indoor use of face coverings provides an important added layer of protection.

More information about COVID-19 available at: www.venturacountyrecovers.org.

Harriet H. Samuelsson foundation awards $530,000 in grant funding

The trustees of the Harriet H. Samuelsson Foundation have awarded grants totaling $530,000 to 11 local non-profit organizations providing remote and in-person services to youth and adolescents during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Grants ranged from $10,000 to $125,000, and were allocated as follows:

● $50,000 to the Assistance League of Ventura County to provide special education and therapeutic interventions to 30 special needs preschool children showing significant communication delays and non-verbal cognitive skills

● $75,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura for wrap-around support services for youth recovering from academic, social, emotional, and physical challenges associated with COVID-19 school closures; adding a Positive Action Social/Emotional Learning Program; relocating the Addison Club site in 2021-22; and opening a Teen Center in the Fall of 2021

● $125,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Moorpark and Simi Valley for Power Hour (homework help/tutoring), Triple Play (making healthy choices), and STEM (Science, Technology, English, and Math) programming

● $75,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clara Valley for on-site and virtual educational instruction; access to iPads for check-out to assist with programming or schoolwork; and subscription access to Buzz Math and MagicBlox to build and maintain math and reading skills

● $15,000 to the Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation for group and individual mental health therapy; volunteers to provide assistance with homework, college applications, and scholarship opportunities; acquisition of a case manager; and Lexia Core5 and DreamBox reading and math software

● $25,000 to the Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast to provide services building leadership, science, and math skills for approximately 410 low-income, predominantly Latina girls ages 5-17

● $75,000 to the Hairy Cell Leukemia Foundation to support six research studies in Hairy Cell Leukemia (blood cancer) and inform scientific research in other malignancies

● $10,000 to Many Mansions for online and in-person programming for 100 youth, including Homework Club, Camp Many Mansions, Youth Friday Enrichment, Teen Friday Enrichment, and supportive activities (Spring Fair, game nights, donation drives, and holiday events)

● $17,000 to Reins of H.O.P.E. for eight monthly horse therapy sessions for incarcerated youth at the Ventura County Juvenile Facilities in Oxnard

● $43,000 to the St. John’s Healthcare Foundation for the purchase of 10 new GE Monica Novii fetal monitors, which are non-invasive, waterproof, Bluetooth Wireless sensor patches that display fetal heart rate, maternal heart rate, and uterine activity

● $20,000 to the Ventura Police Community Foundation (formerly Ventura Police Activities League) for after-school program supplies (i.e., homework supplies, exercise and sports equipment, art and music supplies, and games)

Grants are awarded in the spring and fall of each year. The deadline for letters of interest for spring 2022 grants is September 30, 2021. For more information about the Harriet H. Samuelsson Foundation, including instructions on how to apply for a grant, please visit the Foundation’s website at www.samuelssonfoundation.org.

The Harriet H. Samuelsson Foundation was established in 2005 upon the death of Harriet H. Samuelsson, 96, an Oxnard philanthropist.  The Foundation awards over $1 million in grants each year to: organizations providing services for the health, education, guidance, or welfare of Ventura County youth; St. John’s Regional Medical Center for the purchase, maintenance, and support of fetal monitors; and organizations conducting cancer research.

Large scale on-going cleanup of homeless encampments at the Santa Clara River bottom continues

A makeshift abode is typical of housing for unsheltered people living in the watershed.

by Richard Lieberman

In coming weeks, a collaborative effort to clean up the watershed will begin. The cleanup effort will concentrate on watershed cleanup, removal of homeless encampments, and relocating homeless individuals by connecting them to safe and reasonable shelter and supportive services to help individuals with longer term accommodations.

During the past several years, the population of homeless on the river bottom has increased and clearly demonstrated the need for long term solutions. The increased population of homeless people has made the problem more acute. The large population of homeless poses a real threat to public health, sanitation, and environmental health. At the same time, the on-going pandemic has caused a decrease in the number of shelter beds available, exasperating the current problem. In Ventura a chronic shortage of affordable housing contributes to the dilemma.

The county Board of Supervisors is spearheading the effort, led by the Supervisors of the impacted areas, including Supervisor Matt LaVere, ex-mayor of Ventura. They have embarked on a program that will, in the short-term, cleanup the watershed (river bottom) and address the long-term problem of homelessness.

“Supervisor Carmen Ramirez and I have taken an important first step the past few months focused on an effort to look at the encampments. We saw a significant growth in encampments and increasing crime rates in the neighborhoods around the river bottom. We saw this as a real opportunity to both tackle the cleanup from an environmental perspective and being able to provide services for those at the encampments. This week we specifically focused on the cleanup of abandoned encampments,” he said. “In three days, we removed 188 tons of trash just from the abandoned encampments,” he added.

Project Room key, an effort to lease a motel in Ventura (The Vagabond) had ended but has been extended through January of this year. The motel was able to house over two hundred unsheltered from Ventura and Ventura County. The county established a program “the coordinated entry system countywide homeless management information system” (HMIS) along with 8 one-stop service centers throughout the county that help connect individuals to housing and supportive services, including whole person care, recuperative care, food assistance, rapid housing, emergency shelters, permanent supportive housing, and transitional housing.

“This has to be a multi-pronged effort. First, let’s clean up the trash in the abandoned encampments, and for the remaining active camps we are going to do some focused efforts surveying everyone; finding out who is willing to take health services and possible shelter.” LaVere also notes “Frankly this is life saving for these individuals. If we get a rainstorm, which is going to happen, with climate change we are seeing more and more intense storms. If we get a flow through there, people could drown and die”.

There have been many efforts in the past to cleanup and evacuate unsheltered individuals from the river bottom. Still, the camps remain occupied. Just throwing them off the property will just scatter the occupants into nearby neighborhoods and commercial zones. The city, the county, and the federal government will be placing large sums of money to combat and solve the problem of homelessness in the long term. “It must be done in conjunction with housing and services in order to get a long-term solution,” added LaVere.

Perhaps this time with a major influx of city, county, state and federal financial resources we will be able to make real progress in solving the dilemma of the unsheltered encampments in the river bottom.

VCCU board member donates $10,000 to nonprofits in honor of retirement

Phil Bohan passing on his check to Food Share.

As a member-owned, not-for-profit financial institution, Ventura County Credit Union supports the local community in a variety of ways, including offering its board members $10,000 at retirement to donate to nonprofits of their choice. In honor of his recent retirement from the board, Phil Bohan chose to contribute $5,000 to each Food Share and Casitas Rowing.

“Food Share has done a remarkable job of addressing the basic nutritional needs of our most vulnerable communities, and I am proud to support their efforts,” Bohan said. “The Casitas Rowing family continues to support the health and athleticism of our local youth and adults through its rowing programs. My thanks to both organizations for your efforts, and best of luck in continuing to grow and thrive.”

In Ventura County, one in six people is facing food insecurity. Since 1978, Food Share has been fighting hunger by providing food to those in need. Food Share’s staff and volunteers distribute more than 20 million meals annually through its 190 pantry and program partners. As Ventura County’s regional food bank, Food Share provides food for over 75,000 hungry friends and neighbors monthly. For more information, visit https://foodshare.com.

Casitas Rowing was founded in 2008 by a group of volunteers and passionate rowers led by Wendy and Eric Gillett. The organization now provides rowing to over 5,000 people throughout the community every year via annual programs, summer camps and partnerships with local schools. Casitas Rowing is run by a board comprised of business owners, ecologists, doctors, district attorneys, business executives, economists and more. To learn more, go to https://www.casitasrowing.org.

Each year VCCU participates in and/or sponsors more than 500 local events and collaborates with numerous local businesses, schools and nonprofits to benefit the community. For more information about VCCU and its community involvement, visit http://www.vccuonline.net.

NBVC fights hunger in local community with large donation to food shelter

NBVC FFF campaign was a record setting one.

Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) tops Navy Region Southwest with this year’s contributions to the annual U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Feds Feed Families (FFF) campaign, by collecting 18,985 pounds of goods, donated to Food Share of Ventura County on Aug. 31, 2021.

2021 marks the 12th annual volunteer government-wide FFF food drive, which encourages employees from all federal departments and agencies to give in-kind contributions (food, services, and time) to food banks and pantries. This year’s campaign highlights a summer of giving in June through August, along with seasonal reminders to donate throughout the year.

“NBVC FFF campaign was a record setting one,” said Lt. Cmdr. Yoon Choi, chaplain, NBVC. “With the help of commissary patrons, Sailors, Marines, and tenant commands, the Seabee Chapel onboard NBVC, Port Hueneme, donated nearly 19,000 lbs. of goods to Food Share of Ventura County.”

Since Feds Feed Families launched in 2009, this campaign has collected more than 99 million pounds of food for donation. In 2020 alone, federal employees donated more than 7 million pounds.

“2021 was so successful that we are already thinking about ways to improve and help the community,” said Choi. “We are seeking to partner with the commissary and Food Share to open our own food pantry available to active-duty members and dependents.”

Food Share distributes more than 17 million pounds of food, or more than 20 million meals annually through its 190 pantry and program partners. Food Share is a member of Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief network of food banks, as well as the California Association of Food Banks.

“We have served as Ventura County’s regional food bank since 1978; providing food for over 140,000 hungry friends and neighbors monthly,” said Jennifer Caldwell, chief development officer, Food Share of Ventura County. “NBVC contributed to our mission by donating over 15,000 pounds of food through the Feds Feed Families program. This is a great accomplishment; we appreciate their effort and look forward to future engagements to serve the community.”

“This is a great reminder that part of our mission includes community service,” said Capt. Robert “Barr” Kimnach III, commanding officer, NBVC. “Volunteerism represents the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment. Each summer this program demonstrates that the spirit of generosity and goodwill is strong throughout our ranks. Thank you, Chaplain Choi for leading the effort and thank you all who participated. Although NBVC produced big numbers, it is important to recognize that all contributions, no matter the size, help those who need it.”