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District attorney’s offender programs get noticed by other counties

How could frontier-status Plumas County with its population hovering around 18,000 be of assistance to Marin County with its population of 252,409?

The Plumas County district attorney and two others learned recently how receptive others are when it comes to finding ways to help remediate offenders.

Plumas County’s Alternative Sentencing Program along with its integrated approach that includes behavioral health needs, are what grabbed the attention of those with similar situations.

Three Plumas County representatives were asked to present or be a panelist at two separate conferences recently.

Behavioral Health Director Tony Hobson and Alternative Sentencing Program Manager Stephanie Tanaka presented at a Judicial Council Conference in Sacramento. That conference was called Mental Health Diversion: Making it Work Together.

District Attorney David Hollister was also invited to serve as a panelist concerning Innovations in Mental Health Diversion Programs and Collaborative Courts. Los Angeles, San Diego and Yolo counties were also represented on the panel for a statewide conference in La Jolla. “From this conference came remarkably widespread and positive feedback about what we are doing in Plumas County,” Hollister said.

“I wanted to share some very flattering feedback,” Hollister said recently. “As we are aware, our Alternative Sentencing Program in conjunction with the court, runs three programs: Pretrial Release, Community Justice/Prop 47, and AB 1810 Mental Health Court,” Hollister added.

Proposition 47, passed in 2014, allowed the reclassification of some felonies to misdemeanors. Drug use laws and thefts are among some of the categories reclassified. It also allows those charged with higher crimes before 2014 to petition the courts to change the crime status on their records.

Assembly Bill 1810, approved last June, is essentially a mental health bill that allows mentally ill inmates to get the services they need.

“Our model allows these programs to be integrated with each other so assessments can be made and followed up on, at the time of arrest and booking,” Hollister explained.

Hollister said that the programs are seeing successes but a lack of resources to scale up programs is an issue.

A Marin County representative, in particular, was seeking Plumas County’s guidance for an ASP type of programming, Hollister said. “It is really positive to hear a response of ‘Holy cow. This is incredible,’ with regard to what we are doing,” Hollister said, including part of an email by Dori Ahana, chief deputy district attorney for Marin County.

“I really enjoyed your presentation about how your county is using outside-the-box ways to implement MH related programs and diversion there,” Ahana said.

“The court and probation are willing to include a mental health/other needs assessment and instead of reinventing the wheel, I thought I would ask you for the assessment that seems to be working in your county,” Ahana said.

“During a time when we are seeing troubling trends concerning substance abuse and mental health criminal cases and some are attempting to end rehabilitative programs such as these, it is heartening to know we are on the right trackand we have the potential to really create some great results county-wide,” Hollister said.

Added funding received

Under the consent agenda for the Plumas County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Feb. 4, a request for grant funding and a memorandum of understanding was approved.

The Plumas Superior Court received a grant from the California Office of the Courts for $14,952. In turn, the local court decided to award the amount to the Alternative Sentencing Program under the district attorney’s office.

The funding will be used for drug testing, educational and recovery materials for clients of ASP, said District Attorney David Hollister.

Under these areas, funding will be used for the purchase of workbooks, recovery materials, videos and related media for the use of case management staff in working with defendants through pretrial release and the DA diversion programs. Those programs are designed to reduce recidivism and promote recovery from addiction, Hollister explained.

Also funded with this grant are items that assist defendants in meeting basic needs that allow them to make and keep appointments, including bus passes and the purchase of food. And by purchasing drug testing supplies and their use, program staff can maintain a level of accountability, according to Hollister.

“The amount originally budgeted matched last year’s award, however this year the award increased by $7,496,” Hollister pointed out.

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