Mental Health and Recidivism Reduction Unit

About The Mental Health & Recidivism Reduction Unit

The Mental Health and Recidivism Reduction Unit is responsible for handling select cases impacted by some of the most pressing issues in society, such as mental illness, homelessness, addiction and trauma stemming from military service.

This unit works with law enforcement, county agencies and community stakeholders to help facilitate an individual’s chance for success through coordinated services and support, all while prioritizing public safety.   Some of the programs handled by the OCDA’s Mental Health and Recidivism Reduction Unit include diversion and collaborative courts.  Additionally, the unit conducts research to analyze the effectiveness of these programs, and proposes new ones based on data and best practices. The goal is to help build a system that balances opportunity with accountability, and addresses some of the root causes of crime while staying committed to public safety.

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What is Diversion?

Diversion is the procedure of postponing prosecution, either temporarily or permanently, at any point in the criminal justice process.

Individuals offered diversion may be required to complete programs that provide coordinated services, education, or support to help remedy the behavior leading to the original arrest. 

Successful completion of a diversion program can result in a dismissal of charges, thus avoiding criminal conviction.  Orange County currently has diversion programs for both misdemeanor and felony charges.

What Are Collaborative Courts?

Collaborative Courts are specialized courts that combine judicial supervision with rehabilitation services to reduce recidivism.  Collaborative Courts address the underlying issues that may be present in the lives of both adults and youth who come before the court.

These programs involve frequent interaction between the judicial officer and the participant, supervision by the Probation Department, and a team approach to decision-making that includes a variety of agencies, including the Orange County District Attorney, Public Defender, Probation, Health Care Agency and other treatment providers. 

Collaborative Courts are designed to help offenders rebuild their lives and close the revolving door of incarceration and re-arrest, which increases public safety and overall community outcomes.

What Programs or Groups Is the Unit Involved In?

  • Mental Health Collaborative Courts – these specialty courts connect those suffering from a mental disorder to community-based treatment and support services.  There are currently four different Mental Health Collaborative Courts in Orange County.
  • Mental Health Diversion – established by the California Legislature in 2018, mental health diversion is an alternate path to collaborative courts for those who commit offenses in part due to a mental health condition.
  • Orange County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council – as a stakeholder in the OCCJCC, the District Attorney’s Office works with members from the Board of Supervisors, Superior Court, Public Defender, Probation, CEO’s Office, and local law enforcement to develop inter-agency strategies to address mental health issues in Orange County.
  • Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) Steering Committee – the OCDA is a member of Orange County’s CIT Steering Committee, and is working with groups such as NAMI-OC to build a better response model and options for those in crisis.

Veterans

  • Veterans Treatment Court – this collaborative court provides support services and therapeutic alternatives for military veterans struggling with trauma or other psychological problems, in partnership with the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and other stakeholders.  The goal is to assist military veterans in their recovery and re-entry into society while protecting public safety and reducing recidivism. 
  • Military Diversion – this program provides resources for veterans who have committed a misdemeanor offense and gives them an opportunity to address the underlying causes of their behavior without suffering a conviction.

Addiction

  • Drug Courts – Orange County’s Drug Courts provide an alternative to traditional criminal justice prosecution for non-violent drug-related offenses.  Participants include severely addicted offenders who are at high risk for re-offending and most in need of intensive treatment and supportive services.  The program is designed to support participants in every step of the process to achieve life-changing success.
  • DUI Courts - Orange County’s DUI Courts admits repeat DUI offenders who are ready for change with the goal of helping them achieve sobriety while simultaneously reducing the risk of danger to the public. DUI Court is a collaborative effort between the court, the offices of the Orange County District Attorney and Public Defender, Probation, the Orange County Health Care Agency, law enforcement agencies and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Homelessness

  • Homeless Outreach Court – this court is designed to address infractions and low-level misdemeanors committed by individuals experiencing homelessness.  Homeless Outreach Court is a collaborative effort between the offices of the Orange County District Attorney and Public Defender, the Orange County Department of Housing and Community Services, the Orange County Health Care Agency, the Veterans Administration (VA), the Orange County Legal Aid Society, local law enforcement agencies and a variety of homeless services providers.
  • Commission to End Homelessness – the Orange County District Attorney is a member agency in Orange County’s Commission to End Homelessness, and works with other stakeholders to find community solutions for those experiencing homelessness.
  • Law Enforcement Training and Education – Deputy District Attorneys in the Mental Health/Recidivism Reduction Unit have worked with law enforcement agencies to provide training to Homeless Liaison Officers and increase awareness of criminal justice issues in this area.

Transitional Age Youth (TAY)

  • Young Adult Court - this pilot program is currently being funded and studied by researchers at the University of California, Irvine.  The court was established to reduce recidivism and promote positive life outcomes among young adults ages 18 to 25 years old by providing developmentally appropriate support to participants and giving them the opportunity to have felony charges reduced or dismissed.  Participants receive supervision through Probation, and support through the Orangewood Foundation, where they may get assistance with counseling, securing stable housing or employment, college enrollment, parenting classes or basic life skills.
 

Resources

  • OC Links
    24/7 Behavioral Health Line
    855-OC LINKS (855-625-4657)
    Information about referrals to Orange County Behavioral Health
  • CAT/PERT
    24/7 Emergency Psychiatric Evaluation Mobile Response Crisis Team
    (866) 830-6011
  • Orange County Crisis Suicide Prevention Hotline
    (877)-7CRISIS or (877-727-4747)
    Immediate, confidential over the phone suicide prevention services to anyone in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts
  • NAMI OC Warmline
    (877) 910-WARM (877-910-9276)
    A free and confidential telephone service providing emotional support and resources to Orange County residents struggling with mental health concerns, substance abuse, loneliness or are in need or community resources issues.
    Text and Live Chat also available.
  • Behavioral Health Services in Orange County
  • Medication Assisted Treatments for Opioid Addiction (MAT) are available for those who meet certain qualifications.  For treatment services, please call 885-OC LINKS.
  • PATH Orange County  provides interim housing sites for individuals experiencing homeless. Case management, housing navigation, veteran, healthcare, and employment services are available to all residents.
  • Orange County Veterans’ Employment-Related Assistance Program (VEAP) provides free training, career services, supportive services and job placement for veterans, as well as justice-involved veterans including those formerly or currently incarcerated (within 180 days of release).
  • Documentary:  Other Than Honorable, depicts the challenges faced by returning combat veterans who become involved in the criminal justice system, and the therapeutic alternatives to incarceration the Veterans’ Treatment Court provides.
  • Orange County Veterans’ Employment-Related Assistance Program (VEAP) provides free training, career services, supportive services and job placement for veterans, as well as justice-involved veterans including those formerly or currently incarcerated (within 180 days of release). 
  • Be Well Orange County  
    60,000 square-foot state of the art mental health and substance use treatment services for Orange County residence.
  • Legal Aid Society of Orange County’s Partnership with Homeless Outreach Court
  • 211 Orange County is a comprehensive information and referral system for Orange County and includes assistance with securing and maintaining housing for chronically homeless people.
  • BHS Veterans Services/OC4Vets