Santa Barbara County lost out on a $3 million grant to establish a treatment program for minor offenders suffering from drug addiction or mental illness. The state money derived from Proposition 47, which immediately reduced many drug and theft crimes to misdemeanors. The law released thousands from prison, saving an estimated $100 million, intended to fund programs throughout the state.
“We knew it was going to be a highly competitive process,” said Suzanne Grimmesey of Behavior Wellness, one of the county agencies that drafted the proposal. She expressed some disappointment but added that many high-ranking county officials, including from the Sheriff’s Office, the Superior Courts, and Public Defender, worked collaboratively to identify existing gaps in services. “None of that goes in vain,” she said.
Grant amounts ranged from $1 million to $6 million. Santa Barbara officials opted for the happy medium of $3 million, hoping to be more competitive than if they had shot too high. “We did that on purpose because if we applied for a smaller amount, we wouldn’t have had money to make impacts we were hoping for,” explained Grimmesey.
Throughout the state, 23 public agencies will win awards, including some school districts and cities. San Diego, Alameda, San Francisco, and Contra Costa counties will get $6 million over three years. Marin County, the City of Rialto, Merced County, and El Rancho School District are among the jurisdictions to receive $1 million.
Four months ago, mental-health advocates, namely public defender Deedrea Edgar, expressed frustration with Santa Barbara’s draft proposal. The pilot program, she lamented, would have only served 40 people per year (including aid for housing costs for a third of them). The money would have also hired a deputy sheriff and nurse practitioner. Grimmesey added there would be other funding opportunities — just not from Prop. 47.