The County Voice

NACo Gives State Association Staff Forum to Compare Notes
Mr. Neill Goes to Washington

One of CSAC’s core activities is giving California’s counties opportunities to talk with each other about the issues that matter most to them, but it can be easy for CSAC staff to forget that we can benefit from that same type of opportunity.

For the past four years, NACo has been giving state association staff a chance to do just that and I’ve been lucky enough to represent California each year. The most recent forum for state association staff took place last week at the NACo headquarters in Washington, D.C. At that meeting, I joined staff from about two dozen other states to compare notes about the challenges counties are facing, not just nationally, but locally.

And it turns out we’re not alone. The costs of providing health and mental health in jails, the complications of legalizing and regulating cannabis, whether to reform the cash bail system, and frustrations with unfunded mandates are issues that counties are facing in California and across the country.

I was able to share information about how counties in California are meeting those challenges, but even more importantly, I was able to hear about the innovative approaches counties in other states are taking. For example, Louisiana parishes are enlisting help from rural hospitals in treating their jail population, providing benefits to both the hospitals and the jails, and multiple states have had success getting their Legislatures to change reimbursement levels for inmate medical care.

Aside from any specific policy ideas that we shared, the act of collaboration itself provides benefits, opening our minds to a broader range of ideas, building rapport with colleagues, and gaining a better understanding of what’s really going on in communities outside our usual focus.

Every year I come away from this meeting energized and excited about the new ideas I’ve heard and new connections I’ve made, and understanding a little better all the reasons supervisors and other county officials are so eager to attend our annual Legislative Conference, the regional meetings we organize, and the CSAC Annual Meeting.

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