Health and Safety Commission Looks to Year Ahead

The Health and Safety Commission held its final meeting of the year on Dec. 19, recapping the past twelve months’ actions and previewing the year ahead. 

The agenda included reports from Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) and Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) representatives. Topics in the BHUSD presentation ranged from mental health programs to the Safety and Security Committee’s review of local schools’ preparedness plans.

BHPD’s section was presented by Giovanni Trejo, whose promotion from lieutenant to police captain was announced five days ago. He responded to questions on larger concentrations of officer presences in certain areas, a proposed full-time data intelligence position, and a police statement on a man arrested for allegedly carving Nazi symbols into a public menorah.

Beverly Hills Fire Battalion Chief David Perusse recapped his department’s metrics for the year.

Perusse reported mixed results – there was an overall increase of about 1,300 calls, for example, but a decrease in red flag activations, including none in December so far. Perusse attributed some of the fluctuations to behavioral readjustments – the COVID-19 outbreak and initial lockdowns had disrupted trends in 2020.

Commission Chair Kirk Chang touched upon a number of accomplishments over the past year he was most proud of, such as emission reductions efforts, the Health and Safety Recognition Program, and the “Seventh Inning Stretch,” an activity-promoting series of yoga and personal training videos for intermissions.

Chang also listed a number of external or collaborative programs that the Commission supported. These included the Health and Safety Awards, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and JUST IN CASE BH, the community emergency response team launched two years ago.

The other commissioners surprised Chang, whose yearlong term expires in two weeks, with a commemorative plaque and gavel for his leadership. All of the commissioners posed for a photo as he welcomed his successor, current Vice Chair Lee Hilborne, M.D., to the office.

Hilborne outlined the areas that he wanted the Commission to focus on in 2023. One of Hilborne’s foremost priorities was to expand programs to address those affected by the COVID- 19 pandemic, both in terms of medical effects and psychological impacts, or “long COVID.” He also stressed a need to promote full vaccination and booster rates, reduce secondhand smoke exposure, and consider the findings from the Beverly Hills Climate Action and Adaption Plan in future policy updates. In conjunction with the JUST IN CASE BH program, Hilborne expressed interest in developing a “Mental Health First Aid Cabinet” to promote mindfulness, promising further discussion in the Commission’s January meeting.

Additionally, Hilborne mentioned two budgetary tasks for the upcoming fiscal year. He pledged his support for the Health and Safety Awards and signaled approval of a partnership with the Fire Department to enable residents to purchase fire extinguishers.

Others at the meeting weighed in as well. Chang spoke about the need to continue with community outreach, while Commissioner Helena Rosenthal suggested that the Commission should bear increased responsibility for making sure that residents were comfortable enough to share empirical data.

All of these recommendations, according to Hilborne, formed a cumulative campaign to increase public health preparedness.

“We came through COVID-19, but we don’t know what’s on the horizon,” he said. “This is a very aggressive agenda.”

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