Inside LADA

November 18, 2020: District Attorney Jackie Lacey Addresses Mental Health in the Criminal Justice System

One of the most significant challenges facing the criminal justice system is how it addresses individuals living with mental illness. What steps can we take to keep our communities safe and help these individuals get the treatment they need so they may become productive members of society?

My office and I have worked with other agencies to meet this challenge.

A report I issued last month, “A Blueprint for Change: Five Years Later,” documents the unprecedented collaboration that produced innovative approaches to keep individuals experiencing a mental health crisis out of the criminal justice system.

The accomplishments include:

  • Training 11,000 law enforcement officers and other first responders on how to interact safely with individuals in a mental health crisis
  • Expanding specially trained teams that pair law enforcement officers on patrol with mental health clinicians
  • Doubling the number of urgent care centers that accept individuals in a mental health crisis in lieu of jail
  • Establishing the Los Angeles County Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR) to develop and implement criminal diversion for individuals with mental and/or substance use disorders
  • Launching three Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR) Courts that have removed 1,742 individuals from custody and placed them into permanent supportive housing and treatment, with a 90% retention rate
  • Assisting 4,444 individuals with mental illness secure permanent supportive housing in 195 project-based sites and in market-rate apartments
  • Creating a first-of-its-kind Mental Health Division in my office

These innovations and others stemmed from my call to create a comprehensive mental health diversion plan for the county and the initial report in 2015 from the Criminal Justice Mental Health Advisory Board, which I founded.

By working together, we have realized significant change. I hope you take the time to read the report, which is linked here.

This effort benefits the safety of our community, the safety of our first responders and the safety of individuals with mental illness, their family members, friends and neighbors.

 

Jackie Lacey

Los Angeles County District Attorney