The Public Safety Realignment Act (AB109) was signed into law in 2011. The bill made it possible for people who would have served longer terms in prison to be either transferred to County jails or be released early.
AB109 additionally impacts our homeless friends because it has significantly impacted access to services. The hundreds of homeless people who came here recently under AB 109 are competing with the thousands of homeless people we already have for shelter beds, detox beds, substance abuse treatment and slots in employment programs.
AB109 funded a large increase to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Services (DADS). They increased services by 404 outpatient slots, 12 residential beds, 2 detox beds and 20 Transitional Housing beds, all of which turn over regularly so that many individuals can use a slot in a year. The mystery is that, despite this, I have seen a major change for the worse in access for those who are seeking treatment on their own, voluntarily. In fact, although I work on a daily basis with people struggling with substance abuse, I rarely get someone into detox in this county, and most of our folks have to wait 2-4 weeks to get into rehab. What I hear from DADS is that “if your client is on parole or probation, and mandated by the court for treatment, we have a space for them.” I don’t know enough to explain this – perhaps with the deep budget cuts in the recession, DADS had to cut general services and use the funds they had available (ie Prop 36 and AB109) to keep going, thereby limiting services to just those clients.
I am a great supporter of the programs we have through the Mental Health Court, AB109, Prop 36 and the like – all programs that address substance abuse as a disease that needs support and close accountability rather than a matter for incarceration. I have seen many, many people recover and find health and wholeness through these programs. People on parole and probation have just as much need for services, and are just as worthy of them as people out of the system. However, it sure seems like we have currently allocated the majority of our county services to the court population to the detriment of those who have not had criminal offenses.