OCTOBER 4, 2022 — Hundreds more individuals with complex behavioral health needs will be diverted from jail into supportive housing, due to a new expansion of an acclaimed housing program run by the LA County Department of Health Services.
The Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR), created by the LA County Board of Supervisors, will receive additional funding to expand its supportive housing program to divert more people with mental and other complex health needs from jail and into community-based housing and services. The goal is to break the recidivism cycle and put more people on a sustainable path to living healthier lives.
The ODR Housing program will grow from 2,200 beds to 2,950, marking the largest programmatic expansion since ODR was created in 2015. The expansion comes after the Board of Supervisors approved funding in a supplemental budget today.
“ODR is a critical LA County program that provides the appropriate services that our jails were never equipped to provide. This program helps restore dignity to thousands of vulnerable men and women,” said LA County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly J. Mitchell. “The Board will continue to explore options to expand its proven and effective programs to care for our severely mentally ill residents.”
Local funding will help create 250 additional ODR Housing beds. The remaining 500 will be paid for with funding through the state.
“ODR is honored to be entrusted with bettering the lives of more vulnerable clients who suffer while incarcerated and who deserve housing, clinical services and a supportive community of people who care about them,” ODR’s Medical Director Kristen Ochoa said.
Through partnerships with law enforcement and the LA County Superior Courts, ODR has already helped to divert more than 8,500 people from jail since 2015.
This new investment is an important step in advancing LA County’s efforts to reduce the number of people with complex mental health needs who too often languish in jail. Transitioning more people to housing and outpatient care not only improves lives but can reduce expensive jail stays, inpatient hospitalizations, and other costly emergency services.
ODR works with LA County justice partners, participating in hearings that allow for the release of participants. ODR also supervises grassroots community-based organizations that are contracted to provide housing and services. These organizations are often rooted in the same neighborhoods that ODR clients come from and staffed by people who have experienced justice involvement or homelessness.
Research shows that ODR’s approach works, and there’s a vast need for more of the services it provides. A RAND report from 2019, for example, found that after a year in ODR Housing, 74% of participants remained stably housed and 86% were free of any new felony convictions. The following year, RAND estimated that 61% of LA County jail’s mental health population could be considered appropriate candidates for diversion.