Wednesday, February 15, 2017
New Beach Cities Health District CEO continues focus on substance abuse

by Kelcie Pegher, The Beach Reporter

You'll have to forgive the Beach Cities Health District new CEO if he misspeaks—sometimes he mistakenly refers to his new bosses, the board of directors, as the council. After 28 years in city government, Tom Bakaly is three months into his new role, taking the helm at the Beach Cities Health District.

Bakaly is focused on continuing the work set my his predecessor, Susan Burden, who served as the CEO for 12 years. Bakaly, who served as the city manager for Hermosa Beach for four years, took over the post in November.

“Having a road map in place has been very helpful. When I came into Hermosa, there was no strategic plan, no vision stated, no mission, so we spent over a year just kind of developing that,” he said.

In the next year or so, Bakaly plans to continue prioritizing alcohol abuse: abstinence for youth and prevention for adults. By 11th grade, more than 20 percent of students report binge drinking within the past 30 days, according to the Beach City Health District. In the most recent Gallup survey, adults 18 to 29 report being heavier drinkers.

The board is also beginning to look more closely at marijuana use.

“Obviously one of our health priorities is to support evidence-based tobacco control policies. We'll be looking what does that mean now that marijuana's legal, or will be,” Bakaly said.

Retail stores for marijuana are expected to open in 2018. Federal data released in 2016 showed marijuana use dropped among teens in Colorado in the years after legalization, while adult usage rose.

“This district has really lead the way for evidence-based data. It's been a very hard thing for cities to do, and the health district is doing it,” he said. “I think that is maybe more of a private-sector influence, that's a slight difference.”

To help combat bullying, the health district has implemented programs on mindfulness at places like Hermosa Valley school, to see the impact. The scope of the Beach Cities Health District, making people healthier, has helped inform their direction, which also keeps it from being politicized.

“That's why special districts are formed to have that focus,” he said.

The BCHD board and Bakaly have also started to look at creating more of a campus feel at their building on Prospect Avenue, which was built in the 1950s. Bakaly, who goes to the gym there, said the healthier lifestyle was a personal reason for joining Beach Cities Health District.

“I'm a lot sorer,” he said.

To view full The Beach Reporter article, click here.