DA Announces Groundbreaking Diversion Program

DA O’Malley Announces Program for Individuals with Mental Health and Substance Use Challenges

Oakland, CA- Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced today a groundbreaking partnership that will result in re-direction of qualified individuals who have engaged in criminal conduct from the criminal justice system and into the Behavioral or Mental Health support systems. The program, commonly referred to as the “3-D Program” will initially be a pilot program that will likely expand to all police agencies in Alameda County.

Under the guidelines of the program, when police contact a person suspected of committing a low level offense who is displaying mental health or substance use struggles, he or she will be offered the option of transportation to the Community Assessment, Referral and Engagement Services (CARES) Navigation Center rather than jail.

At the center, the individual will meet with a Peer Support Specialist and be assessed by a skilled clinician. The Peer Support Specialists are individuals with lived experience in the criminal justice system who have gone through an intensive training program that covers issues including effective support, mental health and substance abuse interventions as well as skill building to serve in a peer-to-peer support position. The Peer Support Specialists have been certified through a Peer Support Certification Training Program sponsored by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

A Navigation Team will be comprised of a Mental Health Deputy District Attorney, the Peer Support Specialist and the Mental Health Clinician, who will meet and confer with the client regarding an appropriate course of action and risk reduction plan for the client. The level of supervision and engagement will include consideration of both the severity of illness as well as the severity of the client’s conduct.

The District Attorney’s Office has selected La Familia Counseling Service as its partner and mental health/substance abuse treatment provider. La Familia Counseling Center provides quality outpatient mental health and substance abuse services, as well as education and employment services.

“La Familia has been a strong partner with my office in our many efforts to move people away from crime by addressing the underlying needs and issues individuals have that led them into the criminal justice system,” said DA O’Malley. The District Attorney’s Office has partnered with La Familia Counseling Center on innovative, groundbreaking programs that have changed the trajectory of those in the criminal justice system. These programs, such as the Alameda County Justice Restoration Program, have and substantially reduced recidivism by repeat felony offenders. “Under the leadership of Executive Director Aaron Ortiz, this next partnership between my Office and La Familia will be a success,” said DA O’Malley.

DA O’Malley is an early adopter of incorporating Certified Peer Support Specialists in programs designed as alternatives to incarcerating individuals. Those with lived experiences in the criminal justice system have a unique and powerful contribution to make to others who are criminal justice involved. The experiences of Peer Support Specialists, many of whom have been exposed to and/or confronted mental health or substance abuse in those around them, adds a dimension of support to those currently caught up in the criminal justice system.

DA O’Malley has Certified Peer Support Specialists on her staff and is a national spokesperson for inclusion of those who have been incarcerated, even for the most serious of crimes, who are now committed and trained to support others’ efforts to move away from crime.

The 3-D program will work with four Alameda County Law Enforcement agencies: Oakland Police Department, San Leandro Police Department, Hayward Police Department, and Fremont Police Department.

Crisis management and assessment of the root cause of the client’s criminal justice contacts will be key to the working of the program. The clinical staff will assess current clinical stability. La Familia will make every effort to connect the client to an appropriate level of service to meet the treatment needs of the client and/or re-connect the client to pre-existing services. La Familia will also provide follow up contact with the client after they leave to ensure the client is actually connected to services.

The District Attorney’s Office will provide a dedicated DDA with knowledge of substance abuse and mental health diagnosis and treatment. This DDA will collaborate with the treatment team to develop the best plan to both meet the needs of the client and protect public safety.

This groundbreaking approach to addressing the needs of an individual in crisis coupled with concern and attention to public safety will become a model for a criminal justice reform.

Posted on Feb 9, 2021