The Board of Supervisors chained shut the doors to the County Mental Health facility in Hillcrest on Tuesday in a 20-minute-long "symbolic gesture" of protest against what they said is under funding of state-mandated programs by the state Legislature.

The 8 a.m. protest, part of a broader demonstration coordinated by county supervisors statewide, was aimed at calling the legislators' attention to what supervisors say is an inequitable state funding formula that gives San Diego County short shrift.

As an example, Supervisor Leon Williams said the state supports a total of 928,000 "bed days" in mental health institutions statewide. Williams said San Diego's fair share, by population, would be 75,500 bed days, but in fact the state allocates the county only 11,800.

"The state mandates that we do things, but they don't give us a fair share of the money," said Williams. Aiming the protest at the local legislative delegation, Williams said, "They need to begin to be helpful to us instead of attacking us and telling us what we aren't doing."

But Assemblyman Larry Stirling (R-San Diego) dismissed the exercise as "sheer hypocrisy and blatant cover-up."

"A charming gesture on the board's part, but it covers up serious incompetence on the part of the Board of Supervisors and the board staff," said Stirling. "They are neglecting to mention the millions of dollars that they did not spend on behalf of the homeless mentally ill and the mentally ill of this county."

Stirling attributed the imbalance in state funding to San Diego County to what he said was the county's long-time failure to apply for state funds. Once the county did apply, it failed to spend the money it received, Stirling charged.

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