Ventura County CEO addresses Good Morning Santa Paula!
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: September 11, 2013
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
He started out with the county as a lower level manager and quickly climbed through the ranks to become the leader of the health care agency when it reopened Santa Paula Hospital (SPH).
Now, Mike Powers is Ventura County’s CEO, and he was the featured speaker at the August Good Morning Santa Paula. The Chamber of Commerce-sponsored breakfast meeting was held at Garman’s Irish Pub.
Ventura County has approximately 8,100 employees in 26 different agencies, making it the county’s second largest employer. Powers, introduced by Chamber President John Chamberlain, noted the county works in partnership with cities on various issues and programs.
Even during challenging economic times the county was able to avoid using one-time funds for budget balancing. Now, “Our reserves are over 11 percent... it’s tough making tough calls, seeing other counties cut their essential services, but we have avoided all that. With all things considered we’re hanging in there pretty good.” While “looking at ways to constantly improve while reducing the cost of overhead we still managed to cut about $19 million ongoing cost each year” and helped to keep fees and costs “flat.”
Technology has been a major investment for efficiency, including a new healthcare computer system. Mobile applications have been implemented including those for the Sheriff’s Department, as “We really want to be cutting edge.”
Powers said one of the “biggest investments is we have a new hospital,” an expansion of Ventura County Medical Center (VCMC). The county was able to increase its long-term bond rating to the second highest level that, noted Powers, saved the county millions. “It’s an exciting investment for our community,” including for local residents who use Santa Paula Hospital.
Powers noted VCMC is the “mother ship of your hospital and this new project helps support that ... To give you a sense of what VCMC does,” VCMC — a UCLA teaching hospital — has a Trauma Unit and other specialized and services.
Santa Paula Hospital “is also doing very well. Some of the things we’ve added there are hospital based physicians, a new electronic system,” and other personnel and facility/equipment upgrades.
“I keep in contact with our great friend Dr. Sam Edwards” of Santa Paula, who worked closely with the county to reopen SPH after it was shuttered in 2003 due to a bankruptcy largely due to bad management. The hospital was purchased, renovated and reopened by the county in 2006.
Since that time it has outperformed all county set benchmarks: “We projected it would take three years for the hospital to break even and it managed to do that before the end of year two, and since it’s been more positive results. We had great partners in the community... we could feel that you wanted that hospital open,” and the county made it a reality.
“Dr. Sam said he was thrilled and excited about the community’s hospital, he is so excited at how well the hospital has done and he wants to remind you that it remains the community’s hospital.” Powers said health reform is a “huge change” that will have a “big effect in a variety of ways,” and although the county is expanding community health centers in anticipated of more clients, “I can tell you tell you it’s going to be a wild ride. We’ll continue to study all the issues and mandates; the county is pretty nimble” at adapting to change.
Local law enforcement agencies “are like family, it’s like a community” with a history of working together and now facing what Powers said is “one of the biggest changes in law enforcement,” the so-called realignment of prisoners being transferred to the county or released from state prisons.... There’s a positive side of it,” and that is the familiarity of law enforcement.
“Our folks they know the community, your police know the community” and work together with probation and other agencies to not only keep parolees in check, but also to work on programs to reduce “that cycle” of crime.
The county asks for “customer feedback” in all departments and “following up on those who report they had a bad experience to find out how we can do better. Environmental health has gone out to talk with restaurants in the county” to better relations and ease doing business.
The county has flood control agreements with Limoneira Company for future development areas of East Area 1 and East Area 2. Smaller land owners find land use information, permit applications and forms readily online the county’s website.
“At the Citrus Classic Balloon Festival the owner of Limoncello told me they were able to take care of a lot of business they had with the county online,” which was found to be efficient and helpful.
Powers said, “We have measurements we look at” to ease the cost and time of doing business including filming. The filming permit process has been “cut down to two or four days... and we’re trying to standardize the permits and process throughout the county.”
Overall, Powers said Ventura County residents are “very fortunate to have a very talented workforce and a board of supervisors that is very smart and do their homework” before decision-making.
Powers noted that his son Charlie was born at SPH and one morning he was having trouble getting the youngster off to school because he insisting on wearing a Spider Man pajama top. “I made him change,” said Powers, “and later I found out it was Pajama Day!”