Report: Local Public Safety Funding Falls Short

Tanu Henry and Joe W. Bowers Jr. | California Black Media

A report published March 25 says local funding in California for mental health and substance abuse is inadequate. This deficiency is contributing to the state’s mental health and public safety problems.

Compiled by the Steinberg Institute, a Sacramento-based independent public policy research institute focused on mental health and substance use disorder, the report is titled “Misaligned: California’s Public Safety Funding Doesn’t Meet Today’s needs.”

“Too many Californians with significant behavioral health needs find themselves languishing in our jails while their illness is left untreated,” the report reads.

“Counties report that 53 percent of people in county jails have an open mental health case, a figure that has more than doubled since 2010. While state-level information on substance use disorder prevalence is limited, national estimates find that over 60 percent of incarcerated people have a substance use disorder,” it continues.

In 2011, California adopted AB 109, legislation that required people convicted of certain misdemeanors and lower-level crimes to be moved from state prisons to county jails. Since then, the state and counties have allocated billions to meet that goal. However, the money is insufficient to address behavioral health problems, according to the report.

The Steinberg Institute says the available data underestimates the true prevalence of behavioral health conditions among jail and prison populations.

“Connecting these individuals with effective behavioral health care is essential to reduce needless human suffering, shorten incarceration stays, and improve public safety by preventing future offenses,” it puts forward.

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