New commission brings together varied voices to inform future work to address mental health issues is our criminal justice system

OAKLAND, CA — The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office announces the creation of the District Attorney’s Mental Health Commission, a countywide group of community and thought leaders, parents, and activists, who have volunteered to advise the District Attorney’s Office on the new administration’s response to Alameda County’s mental health crisis.

The new commission will help improve how the District Attorney’s Office responds to residents impacted by the criminal justice system while experiencing mental health challenges. The commission is a realization of District Attorney Pamela Price’s vision for finding new pathways to support families and our community dealing with loved ones who suffer from serious mental illnesses and are court involved. The DA’s Mental Health Commission is an opportunity for voices to be heard that have gone unheard. Bringing these different perspectives together will help shape how the office handles cases where mental illness is a factor.

The commission, comprised of at least 26 members currently, met for the first time on February 9. Recently, DA Price participated in a community gathering to support the families of Dilma Franks-Spruill and Wilbert Winchester, along with Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, Oakland City Councilmembers Carroll Fife and Nikki Fortunato Bas and mental health advocates. Ms. Franks-Spruill was tragically killed in Oakland, and her death has become a clarion call for dramatic improvement in our response to the issue of mental illness in our community.

“We want to treat people suffering with mental health issues with the care and responsible justice they deserve,” said DA Price. “The creation of this commission is just the beginning in effecting change. It won’t happen overnight, but rest assured this is a step in the right direction in providing alternatives to mass incarceration.”

“We need to find a way to get our loved one’s care – not cages,” said Kimberly Graves, a member of Alameda County’s FASMI – Families Advocating for the Seriously Mentally Ill. “Far too often the only time our family members get treatment is with a criminal sentence and all the additional baggage that comes with it doesn’t help their recovery. There must be a better path to recovery and care in our county.”

The ideas and input from the commission will be important as the DA’s Office works to improve how the system currently operates and as we prepare to work with county partners to expand the services and scope of our diversion and behavioral health courts. DA Price is also committed to increasing the capacity and support available to the entire community through the CARES Navigation Center.

Our office is represented by Senior Assistant District Attorneys Annie Esposito and Cynthia Chandler; Deputy District Attorneys Jason Sjoberg and Ryan Khojasteh, currently assigned to the collaborative courts; and mental health clinicians Raymond Laundry and Kelsey O’Neil.

Other notable Commission members countywide include Pleasanton City Councilmember Julie Testa, psychologist and professor Dr. Tony Jackson, East Bay entrepreneur Ray Bobbitt, and Executive Director/Founder of the Mental Health Association for Chinese Communities, Elaine Peng.


Contact: Public Information Officer Angela Ruggiero // (510) 919-0081