Bill Creating Compassionate Options for Arresting Mentally Ill Passes Committee
SB 237 allows police to transport people who are arrested and suffering from mental health issues directly to care facilities instead of county jail
SACRAMENTO – Legislation by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, that provides more options for law enforcement on how to handle people suffering a mental health crisis when they are arrested rather than taking them to jail passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee today.
SB 237 was unanimously approved as part of the committee’s consent calendar and goes next to the full Assembly for consideration.
“People suffering a mental health crisis should get treatment first, instead of jail, when possible,” Hertzberg said. “This is an approach that is better and more humane for those who are arrested, better for police and better for county jails.”
The legislation is sponsored by Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and supported by more than two dozen law enforcement and social justice groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union; California District Attorneys Association; Disability Rights California; National Alliance on Mental Illness California; National Association of Social Workers, California chapter; and Peace Officers Research Association of California.
Presently, it’s unclear whether law enforcement has clear authority to transport people suffering from an acute mental health crisis to a mental health urgent care center without the patient’s consent. The centers specialize in treating mental health illnesses and are staffed with clinicians who can immediately diagnose and treat mental health problems.
SB 237 provides law enforcement with express authority to transport people to these centers instead of jail, when merited.
“When law enforcement personnel are not comfortable seeking consent from a person with mental illnesses who has committed a minor crime, they will instead follow the traditional path of arrest and jail,” Lacey wrote in a letter of support of the legislation. “When such persons could have appropriately been treated in the community, while still preserving public safety, such incarceration may not be in the interests of justice. SB 237 would greatly encourage appropriate mental health diversion efforts if the law clearly permitted law enforcement officers to transport persons to a treatment facility, without needing to engage with a person with acute mental illnesses in the field to seek consent.”
Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at http://sd18.senate.ca.gov/district. After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/hertzberg.
MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew LaMar
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA 95814