The policy landscape is always evolving, presenting new challenges and opportunities to improve our public systems and the lives of the people they serve. We are excited to be part of many new efforts and programs on the horizon. Here are some policies and legislation we think may have a big impact on our clients and the great work they do.
While the passing of Senate Bill 10 (SB10) last August to abolish cash bail in California has been put on hold until at least 2020, California opened the door for an influential realignment aimed at significantly reducing the number of people waiting in jail for their court dates, eliminating the financial burden of cash bail payments on poor communities, and ensuring defendants appear in court on their scheduled dates. Rather than waiting for the 2020 referendum, several agencies are moving forward with localized bail reform efforts in 2019. We look forward to being a part of these innovative reform efforts to increase justice equity among vulnerable populations.
Other legislative developments are opening new pathways for cross-systems collaboration at the intersection of criminal justice and behavioral health. Signed into law in 2018, Assembly Bill 1810 (AB1810) allows eligible criminal defendants deemed “incompetent to stand trial” the option to participate in community mental health programs as an alternative to forced commitment to mental hospitals or incarceration. AB 1810 provides one of the first legislative opportunities for pretrial diversion of justice-involved individuals with serious mental illness where there is a “significant link between the individual’s mental illness or homelessness and the crime they are charged with.” As implementation continues, it will be important to watch how counties develop infrastructure and capacity for new AB1810 programs and services, and the resulting outcomes.
Another related legislation to watch is Proposition (Prop) 47, originally passed in 2014. In the summer of 2019, the California Board of State and Community Corrections will award approximately $96 million to county agencies to implement behavioral health and diversion services in collaboration with community-based organizations. This second round of Prop 47 grant funding will provide opportunities for counties to develop locally-tailored community-based programs that address underlying issues that often lead to criminal justice system involvement. We look forward to evaluating some of these new Prop 47 programs and seeing their impact on social justice.
We are also excited to see new revenue dedicated to address health access and disparities at the community level. With the passage of Proposition 56 in 2016, California implemented a tobacco tax to generate revenue that counties can use to address the oral health needs of their residents. The recently renewed and expanded funding has created an avenue for many small and rural counties, who have lacked necessary resources, to conduct comprehensive community health needs assessments and improvement plans, including local oral health improvement plans. These plans not only empower local jurisdictions to address the great disparities and barriers impeding oral health care, but also position them to apply for National Public Health Accreditation. This accreditation provides health departments with a framework to identify performance improvement opportunities, to develop leadership, and to improve relationships with the communities they serve.
Perhaps the most sweeping changes in policy became evident with the release of Governor Newsome’s budget, signaling a significant shift toward prioritizing and addressing California’s housing crisis by allocating $7.7 billion across multiple programs and departments throughout the State. At the forefront of this new legislative agenda is $500 million for local governments to combat homelessness through regional planning initiatives and awards for cities to build new shelters or permanent supportive housing. We are eager to see how our county and city partners use this funding to improve housing access in their communities.