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Support Program for Mentally Ill Inmates Expands in L.A. County
By By Jennifer Bihm, Contributing Writer
Published May 2, 2019

Services from Los Angeles County’s Office of Diversion and Reentry will now be available in nine districts, keeping more mentally ill patients out of jail. (file photo from lacounty.gov)

A county program aimed at mitigating the costs of incarceration and homelessness among the mentally challenged, will now be available in nine districts, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors announced last week. Initially, the program, created by L.A. County Supervisors in conjunction with the Office of Diversion and Reentry had only been available to inmates whose cases were heard in the Superior Court’s downtown L.A. Central District. So far, since its inception three years ago, the ODR Housing program has helped to divert almost 2000 people from jail and into supportive housing.

“Prosecutors take an oath to protect our community and public safety is our number one priority,” said Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey after the announcement.

“We also want to make sure that jails and prisons are reserved for the most serious and violent offenders. In the past, some people have served more time behind bars due to their untreated mental illness and, as a result, they experienced further mental deterioration. For that reason, my office is working closely with the Office of Diversion and Reentry to ensure that my prosecutors are making informed decisions that not only keep the public safe but also assist people in getting services they need to be healthy members of our community.”

According to county officials this is how the program works: “The Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR) Housing Court program is a collaborative effort with the Office of Diversion and Reentry, the Superior Courts of Los Angeles County, Housing for Health, and Community Based mental health and housing providers. The program seeks to provide permanent supportive housing to individuals who are homeless, have a mental health and/or substance use disorder, and who are incarcerated in the Los Angeles County Jail. The program is offered to both the re-entry population who are already sentenced and pretrial defendants who have pending criminal felony cases.

“For pretrial defendants, the ODR pretrial program attempts to resolve criminal felony cases early and divert defendants into ODR Housing with a grant of probation. The program offers defendants a motivating opportunity to actively participate in their treatment and to remain out of custody in order to maintain their housing. Clients in the ODR Housing program are assigned an Intensive Case Management Services provider who works with the client as they transition from custody to community. The Intensive Case Management Services providers serve as the core point of contact for the client’s medical, mental health, substance use disorder treatment, and other supportive services. Permanent supportive housing, a key component of the program, will be provided through the DHS’s Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool (FHSP).”

“This is good news, not only for those in jail needing mental health treatment and their families, but also good news for our communities struggling with untreated mental health patients cycling in and out of jail, and good news for the County,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “The evidence shows that we can improve treatment, enhance public safety, and use tax dollars more effectively, so let’s do it.”

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