LA County Agrees to More Mental Health Help for Inmates

LOS ANGELES (CN) – People with mental health issues and dementia who are released from Los Angeles County jails will be given medications and connections to organizations that can keep them from becoming homeless, according to an update of a settlement agreement reached Thursday.

The amended agreement is the result of negotiations between advocacy groups who intervened in a 2015 settlement between the federal government and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Under the updated agreement reached in Central District of California on Thursday, a process will begin to connect inmates with mental illnesses with a treatment provider as soon as they are sent to jail in the hopes of keeping them ending up on the street without any support when they’re released. Those individuals will also be provided transportation, a chance to apply for a California ID and other means to help them after being released from jail.

The abrupt transition after being released from jail has left many inmates with mental disabilities alone on the streets without prescriptions and no means to obtain housing, according to advocacy groups who intervened on the inmates’ behalf in the agreement between Los Angeles County and the U.S. Department of Justice.

That underlying lawsuit filed by the federal government sought to improve conditions for inmates with mental illness while in jail.

The pro bono group Public Counsel and law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson said the initial settlement did not address important accommodations for people with personality disorders, substance abuse and dependence disorders, dementia or developmental disabilities. The legal team said the deal also excluded mentally ill inmates from discharge services if they were jailed for fewer than seven days.

Additionally, the lawyers asked for necessary medications be made available on release, noting that simply writing them a prescription to fill themselves is meaningless for people with serious mental disabilities who “have no realistic hope of navigating to those who can fulfill their medication or service needs.”

The amendment was filed with U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson, who allowed eight individuals to intervene in 2016. Those eight mentally ill individuals were jailed repeatedly and that “others have been arrested hundreds of times,” Pregerson found.

In a statement, the Los Angeles County Counsel’s office said, “Helping people rebuild their lives after incarceration is a key priority for the county. These expanded guidelines give us new tools to help people with mental illness get the support they need to successfully re-enter the community.”

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