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The County and City of San Diego will receive $6 million to provide substance abuse and mental health services to hundreds of people cited or charged with misdemeanor drug and property crimes across the region.

The Board of State and Community Corrections voted Thursday to award the grant to the County and City, after ranking their joint proposal first among dozens of entries.

Approved by voters in Nov. 2014, Proposition 47 changed certain drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Another key provision required the state to redirect savings from a reduced prison population to this grant program, to help those cited or arrested for certain misdemeanors. This is the first time grants have been distributed as part of the proposition.

Without the grant, these services might not be possible. With it, those arrested and struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues have a better chance at success in their communities. The ultimate aim is to reduce crime.

“With this grant, we’re aiming to further improve public safety and help those who have been on the wrong side of the law become healthy, productive members of the community,” said Dianne Jacob, chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

The County, the City and community partners will work together to provide these services. The project will also support the District Attorney’s Community, Action, Resource and Engagement (CARE) Center, which links individuals with community-based prevention and intervention services. The funding is available as of the end of June.

The need is clear. A 2016 study by SANDAG shows that that over three-quarters of those booked into jail for drug and property crimes test positive for drugs in their system.

Through the County’s program, community agencies in North County and central San Diego County will reach out to offenders appearing in court for misdemeanor offenses and provide in-person connections, case management, substance abuse treatment and help with finding housing and jobs. The City will expand the San Diego Misdemeanants At-Risk Track, or SMART, pilot program, which focuses on diverting and engaging individuals with chronic needs for services.

All of these efforts will seek to identify complex needs at the root of criminal behavior. The goal is to help build self-sufficiency by connecting individuals with organizations that support recovery and rehabilitation.

“This funding supports our ongoing efforts to stop the revolving door to jail and provide individuals in our community with the tools they need to help them improve their quality of life, reducing crime and recidivism, and promoting public safety,” said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

Update:  We asked Supervisor Dianne Jacob's office why East County is not listed in the county press release among the areas where these program funds will be used.  Councilman Steve Goble of El Cajon sent a similar inquiry to the Supervisor.

Robert Spanbauer, Policy Advisor to Supervisor Jacob, has provided the following reply:

I touched base with County staff to get some information on this grant.  Here are some quick points:

  • Limited total available funding amount and the need to meet the Board of State and Community Correction’s grant requirements to be competitive for funding informed the project design and number of people to be targeted with the services
  • The proposal, then, was focused geographically. It focused on areas with, among other grant-required characteristics, the greatest population of misdemeanants affected by Proposition 47. The grant will serve the central region of the County, including the City of San Diego, and the North County.
  • The first proposed pilot program targets the most impacted areas, but Proposition 47 impacts have affected the entire County.   As additional funds become available and the program design is tested and enhanced, we intend to expand the services countywide. 
  • Full County proposal/project design is found here

Misdemeanants in East County Court can and do access HHHS's regional recovery centers, mental health system of care, and get court referrals/requirements to these systems. The prop 47 grant will enhance these services in the target areas with case management and attempt to bring on board some more grassroots providers/ transitional housing, for about 200 slots a year. An evaluation will determine whether this system brings better outcomes and if we want to expand.