Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Plan to Help Mentally Ill Worth the Money, Los Angeles Times Says
To help break the "jail-to-streets cycle that continues to ensnare thousands" of people with mental illnesses, California should provide the $8 million Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has requested to build a center that will offer a variety of services for people with mental illnesses just released from jail, a Los Angeles Times editorial says. Baca has already started screening inmates for mental illnesses and referring them to services once they are released. Now, he is planning to build a Public Safety Center for the Homeless with 150 "tent-like" shelters that would provide people "a place to sleep and wash and take advantage of services from job training to counseling." While a similar program in the 1980s was a "magnet for crime," the editorial notes that because law enforcement will be heading the effort, "that problem won't arise." The editorial calls on the county Board of Supervisors to order the county Department of Mental Health to oversee the project as a pilot program while "working toward better coordination of services countywide." While the $8 million cost may "sound expensive," the editorial says that the Sheriff's Department spends $10 million annually on psychiatric drugs for people who "cycle incessantly" through the county jail, and the state spends $1.8 billion a year "arresting, trying and imprisoning the mentally ill." Although most elected officials "dodge" the issue of mental illness, the editorial says that Baca has shown "solid leadership." The editorial concludes, "Jail cells should be used to lock up serious criminals, not to house trespassers with mental illness. And letting people live and die on the sidewalks ought to be a crime" (Los Angeles Times, 11/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.