LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A report released today found that meaningful systemic reform has been made in the way police, prosecutors and others in the criminal justice system interact with people with mental illness in Los Angeles County.
The report from the Criminal Justice Mental Health Advisory Board, established by District Attorney Jackie Lacey in 2015, concludes that “critical long-term change” has been made in the past five years that “has far surpassed the board’s initial expectations.”
“By working together, we have realized significant change within our criminal justice system,” Lacey said in a statement.
“We must stay on track and continue to develop and implement innovative approaches to helping people with mental illness get the services they need to stay healthy and live outside of the criminal justice system.”
The changes are documented in the report “A Blueprint for Change: Five Years Later.”
Measures taken over the past five years include:
— providing crisis intervention training — or de-escalation training — for nearly 11,000 police officers, sheriff’s deputies and other first responders;
— expanding specially trained co-response teams that partner patrol officers and deputies with licensed mental health clinicians to provide mental health support, crisis intervention and stabilization and appropriate psychiatric placement;
— setting up the Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR) to develop and implement county-wide criminal diversion for people with mental and/or substance use disorders, provide reentry support services and reduce youth involvement with the criminal justice system;
— launching three ODR courts that have removed more than 1,700 people from custody and placed them in permanent supportive housing and treatment;
— formation of the District Attorney’s Mental Health Division, which is dedicated to reviewing and seeking alternatives to incarceration for offenders with mental illnesses. The District Attorney’s Office says it is the first unit of its type in a prosecutor’s office in California and possibly the United States;
— the opening of urgent care centers to accept people who are experiencing a mental health crisis and need a medically safe location to recover for up to 72 hours.
Members of the advisory board also provided support for legislation, including a measure that authorized pretrial diversion for people with mental illness, according to the District Attorney’s Office.