News flash! Every week, following the Board meeting, Supervisor Kuehl picks five items you might find interesting, important, and/or fun. It’s your way to get a quick rundown of several highlights of the meeting in no more than 5 minutes! Looking for more? Click here to get the entire agenda.
Photo: This week we honored Terri McDonald for her remarkable leadership at the Probation Department and for a career in law enforcement marked by warmth, people skills, and a deep faith in human potential.
Diversion Opportunities for Justice-Involved Mental Health Population
Over the past few years, the County has adopted a “treatment first, jail last” approach for County residents suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues, who often repeatedly end up in jail due to a lack of access to treatment. Recognizing that the endless cycle of incarceration harms individuals as well as the community at large, the County has made unprecedented investments in diversion. It has turned to creative, rehabilitative solutions for this struggling population.
In August, the Board of Supervisors requested a comprehensive report on diversion opportunities for justice-involved and mentally ill individuals. This week, representatives from the RAND Corporation delivered that report, which affirmed that diversion programs could better serve a substantial number of people in County jails. The report found that than 60% of the jail mental health population meet the criteria for diversion, meaning they could participate in and benefit from community-based clinical services, without any compromise to community safety.
The report also emphasized preventative diversion methods, providing help for people at the point of arrest, before they enter the County’s criminal justice system, and urged an expanded capacity to collect information on individuals who enter diversion programs in order to track outcomes. These findings pose a big challenge, but an even greater opportunity, to treat and rehabilitate individuals, moving us away from the criminalization of mental illness.
Affordable Housing Developments Approved
This week, the Board approved $56.62 million in No Place Like Home funds for six different affordable housing projects across LA County, the third round of NPLH projects approved by the Board.
On July 1st, 2016, Governor Brown signed SB 1206, the No Place Like Home (NPLH) Act of 2018, which dedicated up to $2 billion in bond proceeds to invest in the development of permanent supportive housing. The Department of Mental Health will provide supportive services to the tenants in the NPLH-funded units, monitor the provision of services, and approve eligible tenants. The six projects approved this week will provide a total of 550 units, around half of which are specifically designated for low-income families and seniors, homeless veterans, chronically homeless individuals, Transition Age Youth, and other vulnerable populations.
Of the six projects, three are in the Third District, including 49 units in Panorama City, 64 units in Van Nuys, and 40 units in North Hollywood. Increasing Los Angeles County’s stock of affordable housing is necessary to close the significant gap between eligible households and available units, so I am thrilled to see these developments moving forward!
Strengthening the Civilian and Probation Oversight Commission
The Board of Supervisors has made it a priority to strengthen oversight and improve accountability at the Sheriff’s Department and the Probation Department, two entities that have struggled with transparency in their service to the public. This week, we passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to set into motion the next steps to strengthen the Civilian Oversight Commission, as well as a motion authored by Supervisors Ridley Thomas and Hilda Solis outlining the next steps In creating the Probation Oversight Commission.
The two motions direct County Counsel to put the final touches on ordinances that will outline both Commission’s responsibilities, authorities, and structure, and to submit the revised ordinances to the Board at the January 21st Board meeting.
Resources for Caregivers in East LA
The County has an array of programs and services set up to serve older adults and their caregivers, including In-Home Supportive Services, Senior Housing Programs, CalFresh, the New Freedom Transportation Program, and more. In order to educate about and encourage participation in these helpful services in the East LA area, the Board passed a motion authored by Supervisor Hilda Solis exploring an outreach campaign highlighting the aid available to seniors and their caregivers.
East LA, and LA County in general, is a diverse region which is home to a variety of cultures and languages. In many cultures, caring for an elderly family member is expected, and seeking help is not customary, so caregivers may be unaware of the support that is available to make their and their loved ones’ lives easier. This motion ensures that the County’s outreach is culturally competent and linguistically appropriate, reaching out to all residents regardless of their origin.
With the recent sharp uptick in senior homelessness, it is more important than ever that we use every tool at our disposal to empower and lift up older Angelenos. I am hopeful that this motion will lead to a blueprint for outreach that we can use to reach seniors and caregivers across LA County.
State Funding for Board and Care Facilities
Board and Care facilities are a critical resource in the fight against homelessness, providing low-income seniors and people with disabilities with 24-hour care and a safe place to live. But such facilities have been closing at an alarming rate in LA County and throughout California, leaving a growing demographic of older adults extremely vulnerable.
In November, the Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Janice Hahn to preserve and, hopefully, expand, available beds at Board and Care facilities. This week, we followed up with a motion urging Governor Newsom to support the investment of $500 million in State General funds to preserve the Board and Care network, streamline regulations to ease the burden on operators and remove barriers for clients, and maximizing federal funding to keep facilities open in the long-term.
The Board and Care shortage and homelessness crisis are inextricably linked. We cannot afford to lose more of these valuable housing resources, and action is needed on the federal, state, and local levels to support a strong, sustainable Board and Care system.