John Lindsay-Poland, American Friends Service Committee, JLindsay-Poland@afsc.org, 510-282-8983
Tash Nguyen, Restore Oakland, firstname.lastname@example.org, 408-499-7912
Cynthia Nunes, Decarcerate Alameda County Organizer, email@example.com, 209-603-8495
ALAMEDA COUNTY, CA, May 25, 2021 -- Today, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors took the first step to end the mental health crisis in the county, on the anniversary of the police murder of George Floyd that spurred nationwide protests. People living with mental illnesses, particularly Black and Brown people, are all too frequently harmed by policing and jails when they or their loved ones reach out for help. This results in extreme physical and mental harm — and all too often, premature death. In 2013, Kayla Moore, a Black transgender woman living with schizophrenia, was in the middle of a mental health crisis when she was murdered by the police after they were called for a Wellness Check.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to ratify the Care First Resolution to address the over-policing of people with mental health needs. The resolution, modeled on a similar measure in Los Angeles County, prioritizes a continuum of care and services for people with mental illnesses who are at risk of incarceration. The Care First Resolution is a crucial first step in divestment from carceral models that cause further harm and decompensation to people with mental illnesses, and toward investing in the mental health of over-policed and marginalized communities.
The instrumental community-partnered taskforce charged with implementation—that was originally stripped from the resolution—was reincluded by Supervisor Carson and unanimously adopted today. However, the Care First Taskforce now also includes four law enforcement agencies and eliminated Free Our Kids and Decarcerate Alameda County from it's membership—two BIPOC-lead grassroots coalitions made up of organizations that authored the resolution and organized to make this win possible.
Currently, 40% of the people who are incarcerated from Alameda County have a mental illness, and close to half (49%) of incarcerated people with mental illness in Alameda County are Black. At a time when the County faces lawsuits for its lack of community-based mental health services, the Care First Resolution takes a number of critical steps, including:
- Ensuring the participation of and coordination between the multiple entities responsible for implementing change — including County Departments and the Mental Health Advisory Board;
- Enabling County Departments to share aggregate data and other information with each other and publicly disclose aggregated data regarding mental health care treatment and service needs — in the general population, and among individuals who have been incarcerated at Santa Rita Jail.
Policing and incarceration harms people with mental illnesses, their families, and their loved ones. The Care First Resolution is a first step in ensuring that people at all stages of crisis are met with care rather than policing and incarceration.
About Decarcerate Alameda County: Formerly known as the Audit Ahern Coalition, Decarcerate Alameda County is a growing coalition of organizations and community members joining together to demand that Alameda County free people from Santa Rita Jail, divest from incarceration & policing, and invest in community health, not cops. Learn more at decarceratealameda.org.