This week the Board of Supervisors passed the Supplemental Budget for Fiscal Year 2019-2020, featuring significant investments in diversion efforts.

This year’s allocations represent a foundational investment in LA County’s “treatment first, jail last” approach. Having individuals cycle in and out of incarceration is detrimental both to their future and to the well-being of the community at large, so the County is reallocating money previously earmarked for a new jail towards scaling up much-needed services and treatment.

These budget actions include $20 million in ongoing funding to support 2,200 permanent supportive housing beds at the County’s Office of Diversion and Reentry, which over the last four years has launched several successful pilots designed to divert individuals into treatment and stable housing. They also provide nearly $53 million in funding needed to deepen our support for diversion, including possible implementation of the recommendations of the Alternatives to Incarceration Working Group which is producing a report to help LA County develop and scale up programs and services to make “care first and jail last” a reality. In addition, the Supplemental Budget includes $20 million for new treatment beds, in custody or in the community, for individuals with serious mental health issues or other significant health needs.

While this is the largest investment in treatment and diversion services to date, this Board has been supporting the advancement of increasing rehabilitative justice for some time.

Last year, we expanded the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program, which works to halt the revolving door of criminal justice involvement for residents who are chronically homeless, mentally ill, or experiencing a substance abuse disorder and instead provide alternatives that enhance public safety. LEAD gives law enforcement agencies the tools to engage with people who have committed low-level criminal offenses and allows them to offer these individuals access to housing, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and supportive services in lieu of arrest, thus shifting the dynamic between police and offenders. Around the same time, we established a Jail-based Job Center at the Century Regional Detention Facility to help female inmates reintegrate into their communities, secure stable employment, avoid recidivism and find financial independence.

In November of last year, the Board expanded the Women’s Reentry program, which links women diagnosed with mental illness to a multidisciplinary mental health team, providing assessment, psychological testing, group and family therapy, anger management, medication support, treatment planning, and case management.

With these investments, the County is taking its first steps on the way to a more robust and effective treatment infrastructure and toward making the “treatment first, jail last” model a reality.