Bill to Help Get Mentally Ill Individuals the Services they Need Supported in Committee

Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa) announced today that the Senate Public Safety Committee approved in a bipartisan vote Senate Bill 1427, which creates a competitive grant program for counties to establish or expand “homeless and mental health courts” and institute “Transition Home” programs for jail inmates at risk of becoming homeless upon release.

“As I speak with organizations throughout my district, it is very clear that homelessness and mental health are issues that have wide-reaching impacts,” said Senator Ochoa Bogh. “We must think outside the box and take a different approach to address our state’s homelessness crisis. We have been failing our mentally ill populations for many years as a state. It is time that we make significant ongoing investments towards getting these populations the care they need.”

In order to get individuals with mental illness and homeless individuals the care they need and to promote rehabilitation and housing stability, SB 1427 would create two grant programs, one that helps counties establish or expand collaborative mental health and homeless courts and another that allows counties to institute re-entry services for jail inmates at risk of becoming homeless upon release.

Many California counties have “collaborative” courts to address the needs of and improve the outcomes for specialized populations of criminal offenders; this includes 44 counties with mental health courts for adult offenders and 13 counties with homeless courts. These programs allow individuals with mental illness and homeless individuals to get the resources they need to turn their lives around. These courts also work to ease prison and jail crowding by getting people into treatment instead of custody, thus reducing the chances of recidivism due to untreated mental illness.

Numerous reviews and evaluations have found that Mental Health Court reduce incarceration and re-offense while improving the quality of life among those diagnosed with mental illnesses. In fact, a 2017 study of the Sacramento County Mental Health Court found that roughly 70 percent of participants completed the court and had a lower rate of re-arrest than non-graduates. In addition, they had a 75 percent lower chance of being hospitalized and a decrease in re-offense across genders, ethno-racial backgrounds, and ages. However, despite these courts being proven as a successful tool for helping our mentally ill population who become justice involved, these courts are often underfunded and have insufficient programming options for participating defendants.

SB 1427 along with SB 1298  are both a part of “ACT on Homelessness (Accountability, Compassion, and Treatment),” a comprehensive legislative package recently introduced by Senate and Assembly Republicans.