Congressman Tony Cárdenas presenting a ceremonial check to the City of San Fernando for mental health clinicians and services. (G. Arizon/SFVS)

At Monday’s San Fernando City Council meeting a very welcomed $800,000 check for mental health services was presented, an update on the city’s water conditions was provided by the Chairman of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) and a controversial flag policy was approved that has provoked the ire among some of the city’s more conservative residents.

Congressman Tony Cárdenas who attended the council meeting announced that $800,000 in community project funding has been secured for the city to hire mental health clinicians to support the police department with critical incidents, outreach services for mental health services and to support 988 cases. The 998 phone number is the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline that offers 24/7 call, text and chat support by trained crisis counselors.

As Cárdenas presented the large ceremonial check, he noted that the month of May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month.

“It’s not enough to just have a [988] phone number,” Cárdenas said. “We need to build the infrastructure to make sure that when someone calls, saying my son forgot to take his meds and he needs help, that we can send the right mental health services to his aid in that moment of crisis but also with a follow-up and an opportunity to get the mental health support that they deserve.”

Adan Ortega, chairman of the Metropolitan Water District’s (MWD) Board of Directors, also attended the City of San Fernando meeting to discuss the current water situation in the state.

While there was some good news, including the State Water Project increasing allocations to 100 percent for the first time since 2006 and Diamond Valley Lake — the Southland’s largest reservoir — expected to be filled by year’s end, he did say that the Colorado River has experienced the driest 23-year period on record.

To help address the problem, MWD is using a turf replacement program as part of a multi-pronged approach to maximize outdoor water use and conservation. The program would require a stormwater capture feature, permeable hardscape and efficient irrigation. Rebates will be offered for customers who take part in the program. 

“Over half of the water supply that we use in Southern California is used outdoors on turfs,” Ortega said. “We have a turf replacement program that achieves permanent water savings while also creating landscapes that provide multiple environmental benefits and allows us to reclaim our natural landscape heritage in Southern California.”

The city also adopted a flag policy that would prevent flags of any religious or political organization from being flown outside on the city’s flagpoles. 

This came after multiple public comments made at the meeting as well as in previous council meetings calling for the city to raise the Christian flag. Although city staff said this policy was adopted for “liability” reasons and not against any group of people, those residents who referred to themselves as “Christians” took issue with the new policy, noting that other flags, including the Gay Pride flag, will continue to be flown.

In addition, a couple of Spanish-speaking residents took to the podium to ask for more translation services for residents that don’t speak English. They criticized how all the presentations and City Council discussions are conducted in English, leaving out residents who aren’t able to follow along. 

“I would like to remind you that 80 or 90 percent of our residents are Spanish speakers only … [and] too many laws are being passed that have not been presented to the residents,” Patty Lopez said.