Mental Health Acknowledged

Santa Clara County Supervisors Approve Creation of Jail Diversion and Behavioral Health Subcommittee of the Re-Entry Network

Santa Clara  / CALIFORNIA

Today, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the creation of a Jail Diversion and Behavioral Health Subcommittee of the Re-Entry Network to consider and recommend alternatives to incarceration for individuals with mental illness and substance use issues. The subcommittee will be co-chaired by Supervisor Cindy Chavez and Santa Clara County Mental Health Treatment Court Judge Stephen Manley, both members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Improving Custody Operations.

“An important aspect of public safety is effectively diverting individuals who could otherwise be helped by community based treatment from being arrested and/or incarcerated,” said Supervisor Chavez. “The work of the Re-Entry Center, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Improving Custody Operations and the recommendations that will come from this “No-Entry” subcommittee will help redefine how the County approaches public safety.”

Whereas the Blue Ribbon Commission on Improving Custody Operations has decided to examine the complaint process, discipline of correctional officers, the Inmate Welfare Fund and other issues as they arise in the scope of its work, the subcommittee will:

•Identify strategies for preventing individuals with mental health needs from becoming offenders;

•Identify gaps and strategies for community based treatment solutions for individuals with mental health and substance use problems who have a history of or are at risk of offending;

•Assess training needs of relevant personnel (ex. law enforcement, first responders);

•Ensure cultural competency is included in community based solutions and discharge planning; and

•Be prepared to address any other relevant issues as they arise from the Subcommittee’s work.

“An alarming majority of inmates in our jails suffer from mental health and substance use problems,” said Supervisor Yeager, who co-authored the board referral. “That’s why the work of this subcommittee is critical. I’m eager to hear their recommendations on how we best move forward.”

The Board of Supervisors voted to allow Co-Chairs Chavez and Manley to name additional members to the subcommittee with specific areas of expertise.

“The benefits and results of strong Diversion Programs are well documented throughout the County,” said Gail Price, Chair of the Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Board. “The creation of this long overdue subcommittee is a critical step to improve behavioral health devices.”

“We commend Supervisors Chavez and Yeager for identifying an avenue to address the critical issue of diversion and behavioral health for those in custody,” said Elisa Koff-Ginsborg, Executive Director of the Behavioral Health Contractors’ Association. “Far too many people whose crime stems from their mental illness or substance use problems are in our jails. Our membership looks forward to working together with Supervisor Chavez and Judge Manley to identify the steps to transform how these vulnerable people can be served in the community.”

On December 5, 2015, Judge Stephen Manley put forward, and the Blue Ribbon Commission on Improving Custody Operations unanimously approved, a recommendation that the Re-Entry Network form a subcommittee to receive public testimony and formulate policy recommendations related to diverting individuals from being detained at the County’s jails. The recommendation emphasized the need to fully examine Behavioral Health (Mental Health and Substance Use) by the subcommittee in its analysis of discharge planning and creation of diversion programs and strategies.

For more information, contact Alexander Lin of the Office of Supervisor Cindy Chavez at 408-887-3582 or Christine Stavem of the Office of Supervisor Yeager at 415-531-8124.