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Simple Ways to Improve Transparency

The San Diego County Behavioral Health Advisory Board (BHAB) is tasked among other things with ensuring state law is met. Including the nexus of the law being that:

Counties shall demonstrate a partnership with constituents and stakeholders throughout the process that includes meaningful stakeholder involvement on mental health policy, program planning, and implementation, monitoring, quality improvement, evaluation, and budget allocations.

California Welfare & Institutions Code 5848.

BHAB Meetings

Each month the BHAB meets to conduct business regarding it’s roles and responsibilities.

One element to improve our work and which we could easily do, is to be more proactive about how we address documents distributed or presented to BHAB members and the public.

Current Practices

  • We do recognize and agree in our bylaws to follow or provide more documentation than Brown Act requires.
  • We do post agendas relatively consistently.
  • We do post drafts of meeting minutes.
  • We do offer email subscriptions to agendas
  • Too often BHAB members are provided documents immediately before the meeting. The Brown Act provides exceptions for urgent or emergency situations – although, they do need to be accepted by vote which we do not currently practice.
  • Oftentimes documents handed to BHAB members at the meeting were never provided before or after the meeting on the website.
  • Oftentimes BHAB members receive meeting packets as late as the day before the meeting.
  • Many online documents are not searchable or ‘machine-readable’. That means when people are searching for an issue they care about, documents that might address that topic are unseen by search engines, and ultimately constituents.
  • It is not yet known if we provide accessible documents and information for those who are unable to use online or traditionally printed documents.

Action: Proposed Practices

The following are proposed recommendations that would help both BHAB members, the public, and any other stakeholder ideally be empowered to engage on a more informed basis.

Beginning January 2019 such boards must follow some new rules established in the Meetings section of California’s Government Code. Government Code CHAPTER 9. Meetings [54950 – 54963]

  • Post all documents on the website at the earliest opportunity.
  • Provide a prominent one-click link to the current agenda on the BHAB website along with a link to a unique page for the current meeting date that includes links to all meeting documents.
  • Provide brief descriptions of each item on the agenda
  • Allow anyone the ability to subscribe via email and be notified when documents are posted
  • Remove copying and mailing charges for subscribers of paper copies of meeting documents.
  • Ensure all documents are provided in a common open, searchable, machine-readable format.
  • Ensure documents such as graphs, charts, and images are high-resolution quality.
  • Post approved Minutes in the current month’s meeting page post-meeting.
  • Post draft minutes of current meeting at the earliest opportunity (e.g. no later than a week from the meeting date).
  • Post similar agendas, support documents, and minutes of standing committees, workgroups, and ad-hoc committees.

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