The Santa Barbara County Supervisors accepted nearly $6 million in grant funding earlier this week for a new jail diversion program aimed at assisting individuals with serious mental illness or substance abuse.
The new collaborative program, led by Public Defender Tracy Macuga in collaboration with Behavioral Wellness Director Dr. Alice Gleghorn, will create a new sobering center and add a third co-response crisis intervention team that consists of a trained sheriff’s deputy and mental health professionals. The board also unanimously approved 20 new supportive housing beds. The programs are funded by a State Prop 47 grant over the course of a 45-month period.
While addressing the board earlier this week, Ms. Macuga said the program is an “unprecedented moment” for the local community.
“We’ve been talking diversion since the day I stepped into this position, and this is the first time that we really will have meaningful diversion that will have an impact on our community,” she said. “This is a celebration for all the criminal justice partners that you have embraced and encouraged. This is really unprecedented, where we are, and I think when we look back a year from now and we see what we have accomplished with these funds and the funds that are coming in, it is going to be really impactful.”
The program is designed to divert individuals with a history of serious mental illness and substance abuse from the criminal justice system to crisis stabilization and comprehensive wraparound services, including housing assistance, officials said.
In addition to the grant funding, other contracts were approved to establish two new mental health supportive services shelter beds in Lompoc, as well as $480,000 to fund four new permanent supportive housing beds for transitional youth between 18 and 25 in Santa Maria. The beds are funded through the state’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program.
On Jan. 28, the supervisors approved a three-year, $2.4 million grant from the Department of State Hospitals to assist felony mental health clients, establishing treatment and support services for six individuals annually. In addition, 12 new crisis residential housing beds will be established through the grant.
The board also previously approved collaborations among county partners to establish 112 permanent supportive housing units for formerly homeless individuals, veterans and families at the Residence at Depot Street and The West Cox Property in Santa Maria. Also, the board approved the direction of $2.5 million in State AB 109 Community Corrections Partnership funds to construct a facility that will serve felony and misdemeanor clients whose mental health issues prevent them from participating in their legal cases. At least eight people will be treated and receive services in this facility, officials said.
“When you combined the three grants that are for this purpose, we’re looking to spend about $3 million a year for the next three years and trying to make a difference and getting to this population early and hopefully diverting them from jail, either quickly or altogether, and really try and make a change in the way that we approach the justice challenges of those who are severely mentally ill or are addicted to drugs and alcohol,” Dr. Gleghorn told the board.
The grant funds also include funding for evaluation and will provide a chance to review the outcomes of the services.
Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam said he hoped that the programs were another chance to get some “outcome-based performance measures” to review.
“So many times it’s a performance-based, we did the treatments or we talked to somebody, we did something so many times. That’s fantastic, but I want to know how that’s affecting people’s lives,” he said.
Barney Melekian, assistant county executive officer, thanked Dr. Gleghorn and Ms. Macuga for being the driving forces behind the grants.
“All three of them together really tie into an overall strategic effort to roadmap people out of the criminal justice system and into either… substance abuse or mental health treatment that’s desperately needed and will hopefully have the practical impact of lowering our jail population,” Mr. Melekian said.
Before the board voted to accept the funding, Chairman Gregg Hart again thanked county staff for their efforts.
“This is a very important moment, a very transformational opportunity, and I look forward to hearing the reporting on the success very soon,” he said.