SONOMA COUNTY: New Program to Address Mental Health Services
To address the dearth of community mental health services and the resulting strain on the justice system, Sonoma County officials announced plans for a "new intensive supervision program" to help those who often fall through society's cracks," the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reports. The $3.7 million program will establish a 24-hour crisis intervention service and four-year, one-on-one, long term guidance for 100 of the county's "lesser need" mentally ill residents -- clients who often get turned away by the county's financially strapped mental health department. Through the guidance program, clients will receive therapy, treatments, housing location-assistance and transportation to programs and services. In addition, the program will work with the judicial system through an unofficial mental health "court." Based on recommendations from Mendocino County judges who are attempting a similar program, the mental health court will identify the 100 program participants if they run into legal trouble and divert them to the proper care services, rather than placing them in jail. According to a recent study, the number of seriously mentally ill offenders in the county jail rose 31% between 1996 and 1998. State Sen. Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata) said, "The absence of community services has created a growing population of mentally ill folks whose condition has deteriorated to the point they are committing crimes. The justice system and courts and jails are transformed into a processing warehousing system for the mentally ill." Sonoma County Mental Health Services Director Cathy Geary said that the county's $30 million mental health budget is half of what is needed to provide proper services. Chesbro, who serves as co-chair of a legislative committee examining mental health services, has introduced two bills that would establish a statewide mental health system and follow-up services to ensure that people do not suffer treatment setbacks (Rossmann, 3/27).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.