San Francisco – Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin announced today a five-point plan to ensure that the District Attorney’s office treats mental illness, housing instability and substance use as public health issues. He announced the policy alongside Dale Milfay, a mental health advocate; Dr. Laeeq Evered, a mental health expert witness; and Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who is leading a ballot measure this November to bring more funding for mental health care in San Francisco.
“It is time to decriminalize mental illness, substance use disorders, and housing instability–it’s time to treat them like the public health issues that they are,” said Boudin. “We need to divert people away from the criminal justice system and into public health whenever possible and appropriate.”
“San Francisco is facing a major crisis both on our streets in our justice system,” said Ronen. “For too long we have relied on metal cages to provide the only 24 hour relief for people in mental crisis. We have to work together to find humane and effective solutions to make San Francisco safer for all of us.”
“Chesa Boudin’s experience as a public defender gives him the insight and determination to change this wrong, said Dale Milfay, mental health advocate. “As DA he would be a key stakeholder pushing the city to invest in mental health care and shaping criminal justice policy in mental health cases.”
Boudin’s 5-Point Plan Will Treat Mental Illness, Housing Instability and Substance Use as Public Health Issues, Reduce the Jail Population and Close Down County Jail #4
Advocate for a centralized mental health facility run by the Department of Public Health. Boudin will advocate to create a centralized mental health facility that is run by the Department of Public Health. This facility will screen people for mental health illnesses, create treatment plans, refer people to community based programs for treatment, provide job training, house individuals needing mental health treatment and awaiting placement in other programs, and offer drop-in services during the day (for showers, job training, and connections to other services).
Expand mental health diversion to increase the number of times and ways a person can be connected to treatment.
Expand diversion options for law enforcement. Law enforcement will be trained on a third option: call a DPH clinician who can respond to the scene and take over. Law enforcement can also take the person directly to the mental health facility to receive services, but emphasis will be placed on letting clinicians handle mental health issues as much as possible and limiting law enforcement involvement.
Expand existing pre-arrest diversion programs. Pre-arrest diversion programs that are already in place (such as LEAD) will be expanded to all parts of San Francisco to allow more people to get treatment and services in lieu of criminal charges.
Increase staffing and hours for DA booking attorneys. Following in Harris county’s lead, booking lawyers will be available at all hours to see if the case is appropriate for pre-arrest diversion.
In custody diversion and mental health screening. Every person in the jail will be screened by a department of public health clinician for mental health or substance abuse problems. If flagged, booking DA’s can make the decision not to file charges yet and instead, refer individuals to DPH where a treatment plan will be created.
Out of custody diversion. If a person is arrested and cited to appear in court out of custody, part of that citation will include an opportunity to set up meetings with DPH to get screened. Booking DA’s can be notified and, make the decision to hold off filing charges to see if treatment is successful.
Expand eligibility for diversion. People who are charged with a crime and appear at arraignment may be eligible for diversion at the district attorney’s discretion.
Expand collaborative courts. Collaborative courts that already exist such as veterans court, young adult court, behavioral health court, etc will be expanded to allow many more people to participate and receive services.
Ensure accountability and expand restorative justice. Diversion programs can be offered in conjunction with a guilty plea. Restorative justice practices can utilize the diversion program when victims so choose, so that we ensure victims are being heard, accountability is taken, and recidivism rates are lowered.
Close down County Jail #4. The jail located on the seventh floor of 850 Bryant Street, also known as County Jail #4, is deteriorating, is seismically unsafe, and carries unlivable conditions. Referring people who suffer from mental illness into treatment will reduce the jail population to the extent necessary to close down this inhumane jail.