Six of eight candidates vying for the Third District seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors sounded off on mental health issues facing the county at a forum in Marina Del Rey today, with several candidates favoring rehabilitation of the mentally ill over incarceration.
Former state Sen. Sheila Kuehl said she does not agree with a part of a county plan for a $2.3 billion jail expansion, with a significant portion going toward facilities for mentally ill inmates.
"I agree there needs to be a lock up facility for some of the most dangerous who are critically mentally ill, but that is not 3,000 beds," Kuehl said the forum hosted by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Service Area Five Advisory Committee at the Burton Chace Park Community Room in Marina Del Rey.
"A great deal of those resources ought to be given to ... services, because you can make that a condition of probation and that is the better answer."
West Hollywood Councilman John Duran pointed to his role helping create the West Hollywood Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center.
"We created it out of nothing because there was incredible need," Duran said. "I think that I would have to work with the other supervisors on the board, but I think there is a great deal of momentum right now."
Former Malibu Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich said she believes the men's jail should be replaced and the county should look to funding through AB 109 for drug rehabilitation and other programs.
Writer/producer/consultant Eric Preven said he wants to fix the county's safety net so that the mentally ill are not just sent to jail.
"Some people go in with a minor quasi-mental health issue and actually develop mental illness in jail, which is a disaster," Preven said, adding that he favors connecting individuals to people in crisis.
Environmental activist Douglas Fay said he recently read a report that showed there are 1,000 inmates in the county's jails with mental issues that don't belong there. He said the county's mental health services need improvement.
Fay encouraged county staff to identify how much funding they need for services, so the Board of Supervisors could seek funding at the state or federal level.
Educator/business owner Yuval Remer said he supports rehabilitation for the people who suffer drug and alcohol problems, while cracking down on distributors.
"The county is a safety net for a lot of people," Remer said.
Former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver and lighting technician Rudy Melendez did not attend the forum.
--City News Service