June 9, 1998
The Honorable William L. Gordon
Presiding Judge, Superior Court
County of Santa Barbara
1100 Anacapa Street, 2nd Floor
Post Office Box 21107
Santa Barbara, California 93121-1107
RE: SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT’S RESPONSE TO THE SANTA BARBARA
COUNTY GRAND JURY 1997-1998 INTERIM FINAL REPORT –
HOUSING THE MENTALLY ILL
Dear Judge Gordon:
I have read and reviewed the Grand Jury’s 1997-1998 Interim Final Report released May 11, 1998, titled Housing the Mentally Ill. Following is the response required of the Sheriff’s Department by the Grand Jury in the above referenced report.
FINDING 5: The 1997-98 county budget allocates less than 2% of general funds for support of the mentally ill. The Sheriff’s department received 28% of the general funds last year.
This "Finding" identifies the General Fund as a revenue source for both the Sheriff’s Department and Mental Health. The Sheriff’s Department receives more General Fund money than does Mental Health. Both have other sources of revenue. However, what the report does not say is, the Sheriff’s Department pays Mental Health more than $425,000.00 to care for and/or identify the mentally ill inmate. Additionally, the Sheriff pays $667.00 per day for each inmate housed at Mental Health, another county agency/service.
The Sheriff’s Department relies on the Mental Health Department employees who work in the Jail to identify those who are mentally ill, and determine the course of treatment. They recommend, if needed, the transfer of the inmate from the jail to Mental Health and the length of stay, which has a direct financial impact on the Sheriff’s budget.
FINDING 7: The county jail is overcrowded. According to the Sheriff’s department, approximately 10-15% of the jail population should be hospitalized rather than jailed. Many of the inmates belong in the category of "dual diagnosis," which means they are both addicted and mentally ill.
RECOMMENDATION 2: The Sheriff’s Department should take more responsibility for safely housing the 10-15% of their mentally ill prisoners. [Finding 7]
These imply there is a 10-15% mentally ill population, some with dual diagnosis, housed in the County Jail and the Sheriff needs to do more to safely house and meet their needs. They do not make any specific recommendations other than to say, "The Sheriff’s Department should take more responsibility for safely housing the 10-15% of their mentally ill prisoners."
Periodically, we need to remind ourselves that the Sheriff’s Department has an average daily inmate population of 1,168 and some happen to be mentally ill to different degrees. Conditions in the jail are crowded and housing is at a premium. Every effort is made to identify those with special needs and the appropriate housing assignments made.
Ideally, we could have a jail wing fully staffed and available to deal with those with medical and mental health issues/needs, but we don’t. Perhaps, with a new North County Jail we can establish space where some of these needs could be met. Under the current restrictions, there is little room for improvement. We agree that some of the mental health needs could be better met outside the criminal justice system, but Mental Health does not have the financial resources to meet that need.
RECOMMENDATION 5: If the Mental Health/Probation Program is successful it should be augmented to include all jailed mentally ill patients. Provisions should be made for monitoring the effectiveness or failure of the program. Monitors should consist primarily of members from outside the Sheriff’s and Mental Health departments. [Findings 4 & 7]
We agree that any treatment program should include "all jailed mentally ill patients." It is unclear, however, as to why the monitors should primarily be from outside the Sheriff’s and Mental Health Departments. Any diversion program involving "jailed inmates" requires a multi-faceted cooperative effort/agreement by the criminal justice and judicial systems. Public safety and personal rights, in combination with risk assessment, need careful consideration and review.