DATE: July 8, 1998
TO: Honorable Frank Ochoa, Presiding Judge, Santa Barbara County Superior Court
FROM: Susan J. Gionfriddo, Chief Probation Officer
RE: Response to 1997-98 Grand Jury Interim Final Report Entitled "Housing the Mentally Ill"
CC: Tim Putz, Grand Jury Foreman
Members, Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors
Michael F. Brown, County Administrator
Fran Ruddick, Alcohol, Drug, Mental Health Director
Please accept the following as my official response to the 1997-98 Grand Jury Interim Final Report regarding "Housing the Mentally Ill", which was released on May 11, 1998:
RECOMMENDATION 5: If the Mental Health/Probation Program is successful it should be augmented to include all jailed mentally ill patients. Provision 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.
Response: The recommendation requires further analysis.
Discussion: The Santa Barbara County Probation Department is hopeful that the pilot project "Mental Health/Probation Program" (MH/PP) proves successful and expandable. However, the program is in its infant stage of development and
preliminary outcomes will not be known until May, 1999. Both the Probation Department and the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Department are committed to the pursuit of developing the most nonintrusive response necessary to deal with the mentally ill offenders within the Criminal Justice System.
If MH/PP proves viable, safe, and cost effective, it will be expanded throughout the County. Assessment of this program is ongoing by the Probation Department. It should be viewed as a "work-in-progress" with intervention strategies being developed on an ongoing basis. The typical client’s economic vulnerability, homelessness, and addiction, in addition to their mental needs, creates new challenges daily. The goal of MH/PP is to avoid making the Criminal Justice System the primary care provider for the mentally ill homeless population. To achieve this goal, it is evident that a wider spectrum of assistance will need to be developed, and that simply takes time, and directed resources.