Good evening Mr. chair and committee members. My name is Daisy Chavez and I am a member of Transforming Justice Orange County and policy associate with Initiate Justice and we are in strong opposition of SB 665 by Senator Umberg. Transforming Justice OC is a coalition committed to decarceration in OC.
We care very much about the mental health of incarcerated people in Orange County’s jails and across California. However, we unequivocally oppose the use of MHSA funds to supplant the obligations that jails have to provide mental health services. Orange County Sheriff’s Department alone already reaps over 20% of Orange County’s discretionary budget, including millions intended for mental healthcare in the jails.
As someone who has multiple loved ones who have experienced incarceration as a result of their untreated mental illness, I have seen the ripple effects of not providing care in the community first-hand. My loved one’s brother, Robert’s mental illness was further exacerbated by the trauma of incarceration. After he was released, he struggled to access housing, achieve financial stability, and get mental health treatment. He was ultimately re-arrested and sent back to jail. He needed care in the community and alternatives to incarceration, not therapy in a jail. This is the express intent and purpose of the MHSA – this is what voters understood and approved in 2004.
MHSA funds were intended for community based services, to provide support that can prevent arrest and incarceration, increase access to diversion, and facilitate reentry. People cannot get well in a cell.
I strongly urge you to vote no on Senate Bill 665 and to listen to communities across the state calling on California to invest in community care and resources.