Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice | Election 2020

Board Of Supervisors Authorizes Funding For Mental Health Diversion Program

San Diego County Board of Supervisors in chamber on Feb. 19, 2020.

Credit: County of San Diego

Above: San Diego County Board of Supervisors in chamber on Feb. 19, 2020.

More than $3 million in funding was announced Tuesday for San Diego County's first pre-trial mental health diversion program, designed to provide treatment options for people with untreated mental illnesses who might otherwise face jail and criminal charges.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors authorized a contract to accept up to $3,328,000 in grant funding from the Department of State Hospitals for the program, which will provide community-based treatment for individuals who meet the state's criteria for mental health diversion.

State law allows criminal prosecution to be delayed for up to two years under certain circumstances, including if a defendant is found to suffer from a mental disorder that played a significant role in the crime. If granted diversion, that person may be referred to a mental health treatment program instead, after which criminal charges could be dismissed upon successful completion of the program.

RELATED: America’s Mental Health Crisis Hidden Behind Bars

People facing felony charges who have diagnoses of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and who are at risk of being ruled incompetent to stand trial are among those eligible.

Certain serious felonies, such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, and various sexual offenses, exclude defendants from diversion.

The funding would support treatment and housing for around 30 people at any given time, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office. The program will include Assertive Community Treatment, wraparound services, case management, life skills, medication management, benefits assistance, peer support and community linkages, according to the DA's Office.

"There needs to be a sea change in the way we address the needs of people living with mental illness in our community who find themselves involved with the criminal justice system," said District Attorney Summer Stephan. "Today is another big step forward in a progressive new approach that is improving the way the criminal justice system handles individuals with serious mental illness, while still keeping our neighborhoods safe."

FEATURED PODCAST

San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Midday Edition banner

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.