County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher launched The La Jolla Community Center’s Distinguished Speaker Series on August 13 discussing his childhood in rural Arkansas—with a backyard facing a foundry and his first-hand experience of breathing air reeking of fire from a cauldron. He also shared his heart-felt experience as a Marine, who observed the plight of his fellow veterans returning from their tours with mental health problems and without adequate services to treat their illness. It was obvious that these life experiences greatly impacted his life and his work, as his talk focused on three core areas: mental health and substance abuse, child welfare, and environmental justice.
To Fletcher, there is no difference between mental health issues and substance abuse issues. It is the same whether an individual has diabetes or suffers from bi-polar disease. And for both these conditions, the numbers are increasing and both require intervention. He pointed out that there is still a stigma attached to mental health and addiction. “They can survive war but many cannot survive peace,” said Fletcher, adding that services for veterans are lacking “although our weapon systems get funded.” He voiced anger at his discovery that $168 million of mental health funds had not been allocated. “We’re not helping these folks and the shortage of health services is pathetic,” he explained. He described difficulties in both the provision of new mental health facilities including the ongoing issue of acceptance by communities for such facilities in their neighborhoods.
In the area of child welfare, Fletcher said that children are paying for the mistakes adults make—for trauma in the home and is concerned about these “adverse childhood experiences,” that prevent these children from living in a loving home environment. Coupled with this, he cited an “inequality of access to clean air” for many children, depending on where they live in the county. “There is an eight-fold increase in children developing asthma, depending on the color of the skin [and where they live]. “We’re better than that,” he said, adding that he’s closely involved in efforts to reduce carbon emissions through cleaner burning vehicles and facilities in the county.
“I’m going to continue to fight to make a difference for others—it’s what motivates me,” said Fletcher, who answered additional questions on such issues as transportation and biking and the lack of available psychiatric facilities. For a lengthy article covering more of the Supervisor’s remarks, please see the La Jolla Light article at the bottom of this page titled, “Providing Mental Health Services is Job #1 says County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.”