On Tuesday, Sept. 16, the Boards of Supervisors for Riverside and San Bernardino counties held a joint meeting to discuss several issues affecting both counties. During the session, they heard from staff on health-care issues, implementation of AB 10, which addresses the shift of prisoners from the state to counties, and Ontario Airport.

Before the session ended, they agreed to work together on more issues in an effort to improve their effectiveness in Sacramento — both with the governor’s office and the state legislature.

“We have things in common and I believe by putting our voices and citizens together, we can make the Inland Empire economy more vibrant,” said Janice Rutherford, San Bernardino board chair.

Health care

The Inland Empire Health Plan covers residents of both counties and its chief executive, Dr. Brad Gilbert, described the affect of the Affordable Care Act on the two counties. Since 1996, the number of IEHP members has grown from 62,000 to more than 900,000. Since ACA was implemented, Medi-Cal enrollment has grown by 200,000 to a total of 300,000. By December 2015, Gilbert expects the health exchange enrollment (non-Medi-Cal) to increase another 50,000, to a total of 175,000 to 180,000 members.

Despite the growth of insured individuals, the Inland Empire has “… an inadequate supply of physicians,” Gilbert lamented. “We are the lowest ratio of primary care physicians to population of any area in the state.” Compounding the current shortage is the fact that the existing supply of physicians is an aging work force. In response to a question from Riverside County Board Chair Jeff Stone about how to improve the supply of doctors, Gilbert said, the recent opening of a medical school at the University of California, Riverside is positive. Then he stressed that it is more important where physicians do their residency than where they attend school.

Jail realignment

“Nearly 17 percent of the inmates released from state prisons back to local jurisdiction have fallen within our two counties,” reported Mark Hake, the Riverside county probation officer.

“If you want to drive down recidivism, we have to continue to purse split sentences,” stressed San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon. Split sentences include both jail time and monitored probation, he stated, and they now represent about 40 percent of convictions. “We have to do something different or we’ll have overcrowding for years,” he told the boards.

Ontario Airport

“Ontario Airport is important to San Bernardino and Riverside counties,” Stone said. “We like to refer to it as ‘our airport’ as many of our constituents use it.”

The supervisors heard from Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner that airport passengers were about 3.9 million in 2013. The peak was more than 7 million passengers in 2007 and has been declining since.