Study: L.A. County Can Help Thousands of Mentally Ill Inmates Avoid Arrest, Homelessness

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Deputies escort an inmate at Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles in this undated photo. (Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Deputies escort an inmate at Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles in this undated photo. (Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

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More than 60% of the inmates with a mental illness in the Los Angeles County Jail would be eligible for diversion if there were more facilities capable of providing supportive care, according to a study released Tuesday.

Such a move would save the county hundreds of dollars a day in incarceration costs for each inmate and, for many, end a cycle of being arrested and released, then becoming homeless and getting arrested again, the medical director of the county’s Office of Diversion and Reentry, Kristen Ochoa, said at a news briefing. Thousands of inmates could be taken out of the criminal justice system, she said, citing the study conducted by the nonprofit research agency Rand Corp.

“This is a tool I hope we can use to its fullest,” Ochoa said. “I think all we need right now are resources to increase our capacity.”

About 30% of those in the county jail each day are either in the mental health ward or receiving psychotropic medication. That number stands at about 6,000, after rising steadily in recent years.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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