<b>NO VACANCY:</b> The county’s Psychiatric Health Facility is often filled to the brim.

Paul Wellman (file)

NO VACANCY: The county’s Psychiatric Health Facility is often filled to the brim.

Report Examines High Cost of Jailing Mentally Ill

Faith Communities Argue Practice is Inhumane and Wastes Money

Thursday, January 9, 2014
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A Sheriff’s report to address jail overcrowding stated in 2008 that “[County Jail] has become the County’s de facto ‘mental institution.’” Last month, a report completed by CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice) reiterated that statement and argued that holding mentally ill inmates in County Jail is not only inhumane but also more expensive than moving them to treatment facilities.

CLUE is a collection of faith communities that has focused its efforts in the past three years on the mentally ill population that circulates through the “revolving door” of courtrooms, emergency rooms, and jail cells. CLUE representative Maureen Earls and former public defender Nick Beeson argue that if the conservatively estimated 150 mentally ill people who are in custody for low-level offenses (charged with nondangerous, minor crimes like petty theft or drinking in public) were moved to facilities like El Carrillo Studios or the New Faulding Hotel, the county would save $2.9 million each year.

It costs $44,500 to incarcerate an inmate in County Jail each year. According to the report, that figure does not include an additional $4,000 for mental treatment and another $4,000 for medical services. Including those additional costs, the county spends $19,000 more to incarcerate mentally ill people than it would to treat people with mental-health issues in stabilizing houses, which range from Psychiatric Health Facility units to step-down facilities to stand-alone treatment centers.

In their four months of research ​— ​funded by the Santa Barbara Foundation ​— ​Earls and Beeson interviewed dozens of law enforcement personnel, mental-health treatment providers, and Housing Authority staff and found that few people agree that low-risk mentally ill individuals belong in jail.

“It’s just one of those untenable situations. We need to have options that are not jail-based,” Beeson said, explaining he hopes to bring to light previous studies ​— ​conducted by the Blue Ribbon Commission, the Grand Jury, and the County CEO between 2008 and 2011 ​— ​that demonstrated that moving those inmates out of jail would be beneficial for both tax dollars and the mentally ill population. But those studies failed to materialize into real change.

Last month, the Sheriff’s department all but secured a $38.9 million grant ​— ​in addition to $80 million set aside to build the jail ​— ​to fund an additional wing (with 228 beds) dedicated to a recidivism-reducing program in the proposed North County jail, which is expected to be operating by 2018. The county will match that grant with $3.9 million from strategic reserves. Though this additional money increases the jail’s capacity to deal with mentally ill inmates, the problem, as Beeson sees it, is “if you build it, they will come.” He’d prefer the North County jail be scaled down and that money saved from removing the 150 inmates be diverted to build facilities on county-owned property.

That’s where low-income housing expert Frank Thompson comes in. He contributed to the CLUE report and explained that the county owns hundreds of acres of land and that a proper linkage between health care, mental health, the courts, and nonprofits could halt the revolving door and improve lives. “It’s a tall order,” he admitted.

Thompson explained that AB 109 forced county jails across the state to absorb prison inmates, which is all the more reason to look for alternative solutions. He added that the annual cost for each inmate at the North County jail would likely be much greater than the annual $45,000 for each inmate at the current jail. “To do the right thing is actually cheaper,” Beeson said, adding that any cost to keep mentally ill patients out of jail would be worth it.

Getting all of the moving parts working in unison will evidently not happen overnight. The good news is that more people with mental illnesses are eligible for Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act. According to Public Health Director Dr. Takashi Wada, there are roughly 30,000 people in the county who have some form of mental illness and are now eligible for Medi-Cal. Further, all health insurance is now required to cover mental health and substance abuse equal to that of other medical treatment.

The CLUE report calls for an independent analysis to do a more thorough evaluation and comparison of the costs of treating low-risk people in jail as opposed to in outside facilities. Earls and Beeson will soon meet with Wada, county staff, and Sheriff’s Office personnel to discuss this further, and the issue is expected to go before the Board of Supervisors sometime in the next couple of months.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

This is a proposal that really must happen, for humanitarian reasons as well as financial ones. The timing is right, before the N county jail is built!, with the ACA getting underway -- and the county's great need to reduce expenditures.

Where can one get/read a copy of the report?

at_large (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2014 at 8:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

In other news... Council member Fransisco finished reading " The Collapse of the American Economy".
The fact that he can read is being reported as a terrific success by right wing commentators. Some are openly speculating on how easily he'll unseat Capps and turn this country around....
It's also been reported that our GOP council member intends on power reading through the entire Glen Beck series if these gang injunction protest continue!

Have a bright, reassuring, capitalistic day Santa Barbara!

touristunfriendly (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2014 at 2 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Release them all now, so that they get themselves a nice long sentence up state. The plus of that North County jail will be that most of these people will be released there, and they might find Santa Maria a better home to live in (either that or they won't have a choice since they have no money to get back).

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2014 at 2:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Why isn't Prop 43 money, billions of dollars dedicated by voters for those with mental impairments, being used to support state care facilities for this population group?

Daw Williams and Hannah-Beth Jackson need to answer questions about this voter proposition money and this continuing problem. Voters wanted something better done. Billions of tax dollars were raised with this intent.

What happened?

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2014 at 9:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Dale Francisco has been an exemplary city council person. We could use a lot more just like him in politics at all levels. Thank you for your service Dale, and many do not forget how close you became to becoming our mayor when you ran four years ago.

Had that happened I suspect we would not be still facing the hundreds of millions of growing unfunded liabilities this city continues to face with each year of progressive head in the sand majorities.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2014 at 2:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Dale Francisco has been exemplary in hypocrisy, hubris, theocratic-police state policies and just plain willful ignorance.
If he's the best the local Republican establishment can come up with, then they are a pretty sorry gang..
If you think "we could use more like him", then you've revealed yourself just to be another partisan hack and/or share his self-loathing to the point you want to inflict it on everyone.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2014 at 2:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hope there is a bed for you, sonny.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 11, 2014 at 3:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Excellent demonstration of self-control, KV - you restricted your description to words the Indy could print. I'm impressed.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
January 12, 2014 at 7:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Excellent demonstration of self-control, KV - you restricted your description to words the Indy could print. I'm impressed.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
January 12, 2014 at 7:16 p.m.

Do U love me 2?

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
January 12, 2014 at 7:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I love you 14x dolphinpod

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 12, 2014 at 7:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

14scams loves you, and you love me, therefore vicariously 14 scams loves me!

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
January 13, 2014 at 2:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken, the only problem you have with Dale Francisco is that you've managed to label him a "republican" in all your rants about the guy.
If he's a "republican" like you claim (which apparently you wouldn't know a real republican if he or she came up and bit you on the hiney) then maybe they need more in there instead of the gang loving cronies that predominate the Santa barbara City Council. Just sayin'!

blahblahmoreblah (anonymous profile)
January 13, 2014 at 5:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

To clarify, never once have I called him a Republican. In fact he could not be any further from being a Republican if he were registered a Democrat. No blah, you've chosen to ignore the meat of my comments and chalk it up to mere partisanship.
Francisco hides under a Republican banner, a true Republican is he not. He is at best a NeoConservative and that's being kind.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 13, 2014 at 5:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I know many Republicans, "Conservatives" and even Tea Partiers and not one of them would ever vote for him. How does he win? Dishonesty and an uniformed electorate who vote by Party and not person.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 13, 2014 at 6 p.m. (Suggest removal)

2009 Election results for the non-partisan Santa Barbara mayor and city council race:

Didn't know there were that many registered Republicans in our little burg. Thanks for the heads up, KV.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 14, 2014 at 9:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So Ken, if a "neo-conservative" comes up with good ideas or does a good public service, they'd still be bad?
Seems like the "good non-neo-conservatives" on the Santa Barbara City Council aren't doing that good either.
Put your friendships with some of that staff aside, look at what they've done in comparison to Francisco, they simply pale and fail. Just the truth man.

blahblahmoreblah (anonymous profile)
January 14, 2014 at 12:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

thanks, touristunfriendly, I actually didn't know Francisco could read, and thought he might be faking it during the recent "tsunami" -- and the book title sums up all of Franciso's fears. And thank you, Ken, because you actually have described this little mayor wanna-be perfectly, and in precise & appropriate language.

DavyBrown (anonymous profile)
January 14, 2014 at 12:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Dale Franciso is a very bright guy who did well in high-tech, is thoughtful, insightful, clear-thinking and articulate. You are only making yourselves look foolish trying to claim otherwise. Boring, not cute.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 15, 2014 at 5:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Again, alternate universe Foo. While he may have done well in high tech on the city council and in the poli-social arena Dale Francisco has proven himself dishoent, disingeunous if not at times absolutely loathsome.
Thoughtful? To hide his own skeletons and advance his political career.
Insightful? Knows how to advance his own selfish interests.
Clear-thinking? He operates on fear and panic.
Articulate? Notable speech or a piece of writing he actually wrote?
Some bold idea he developed? Can someone proffer any of these?
Looking forward to his run against Capps, should be a hoot.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 15, 2014 at 5:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If you want proof of his theo-totalitarian tendencies you only need to look at his actions to piush aside Measure P, which was passed by a majority of the voters. And hypocritical war his war on members of the LGBT community.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 15, 2014 at 5:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken, the same can be applied in this case to...

"Thoughtful? To hide his own skeletons and advance his political career." Cathy Murillo hasn't proven to be this either, but she has definitely made her pro-gang alliances known to all with her words and actions.

"Insightful? Knows how to advance his own selfish interests." Cathy Murillo does the same by protecting those who she knows will vote for her: gang thugs and their ilk.

"Clear-thinking? He operates on fear and panic." Cathy Murillo does the same by FALSELY claiming the gang injunction targets Latinos. Please, give me a break already! Its about crimes committed regardless of race.

"Articulate? Notable speech or a piece of writing he actually wrote?" Cathy Murillo has not done anything during her tenure except defend worthless gang scum from being punished for doing bad things with tons of rhetorical ramblings that equate to race card wielding politics.

"Some bold idea he developed?" A lot more in terms of fiscal responsibility than Cathy Murillo has done, she's too busy garnering votes from those she loves: Gang scum and their ilk.

"Can someone proffer any of these?" Can someone proffer any of these in Cathy Murillo's side? Nope, didn't think so. Glad to help you Ken.

blahblahmoreblah (anonymous profile)
January 27, 2014 at 10:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Actually can proffer bold ideas and action in service to the community from Cathy Murillo, all you have is bluster and hising behind a pseudonym while you post BS on the internet.

What bold ideas do you have blah? What have you done in service to the community? What do you do except post long boring diatribes on the internet?
Can anyone proffer anything worthwhile you've dopne in the last 20 years? Nope didn't think so.

With help like your's blah who needs cranks?

And yes the gang injunction does falsely target Latinos.

Next time you wanna call me out with some bs use your real name or stick to your video games.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 27, 2014 at 10:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And should Francisco win the nomination- a skeleton or two will be sure to come out of the closet.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 27, 2014 at 11:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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