Funding Programs to Help At-Risk Youth

camp.Every year, the state of California gives Los Angeles County an average of $28.1 million under the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) to pay for mental health screenings and treatment, substance abuse intervention, after-school enrichment, school- or housing-based supervision, a Special Needs Court, and other programs to help reduce crime and delinquency among at-risk youth.

Most of that allocation has been expended, but $21.7 million in savings has accumulated since the fiscal year 2010-2011.

In July, the board approved a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl directing the county Chief Executive Office and Probation Department to prepare for the immediate allocation of $1 million from the JJCPA fund to pay for critical programs and services delivered by community-based organizations in each supervisorial district.

“We should make the most of resources set aside to help at-risk youth, juvenile offenders and their families, so the county can continue to lower the arrest and incarceration rates of children,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

Despite the decrease of juvenile arrests in recent years, there are still more than 650 youth detained in the county’s juvenile halls.

Board Moves to Require Regular Audits for IT Safety

Calling for regular audits and strong safety measures to be in place so that information is secure, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion calling for more intense scrutiny of the county’s IT infrastructure.

The motion comes on the heels of a series of troubling audits that found security lapses in several Los Angeles County departments that allowed terminated employees to gain access to confidential records, including medical and criminal files (Probation Audit, Public Health Audit).  The audits conducted by L.A. County’s Auditor-Controller specifically revealed lapses in security at Los Angeles County’s probation and public health departments.  Although the Department of Probation has now deleted the accounts, the audit found that among former employees, 695 logins remained active for seven years – and 33 were used to access probation systems. At the Department of Public Health, 13 employee accounts were active well after termination of employment, and in one case, an old login was used to order tests and access the results for patients in the public health system – a possible violation of federal privacy laws.

“This information needs to be protected at all times,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who sponsored the motion that was approved. “Efficient, reliable, useful, modern, quality and secure IT systems must be a central component and core mission of our governance and any governance restructuring that we do.”

In recent years, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has initiated several improvements to the county’s IT system including:



Safe Routes to School

safe-routes-pic-640x400Getting to school safely will soon be as easy as ABC for students in the Florence-Firestone community.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a two-year project to improve pedestrian safety around six schools in the South Los Angeles County community. The $1.6 million Safe Routes to School project will install improved curb ramps, electronic countdown signals, and audible, push-button crossing devices. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2017, with the educational component rolling out sooner, in the fall of 2016.

“Students and their parents can heave a sigh of relief,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “These improvements would help reduce potential collisions, upgrade access for people with disabilities, and improve traffic flow.”

With funding from a state Active Transportation Program grant, the county Department of Public Works will design and build the improvements at nine intersections along Compton Avenue, Nadeau Street and Firestone Boulevard.

DPW assistant deputy director John Walker said the project would bring multiple benefits. “The improvements will promote healthy, active lifestyles,” he said. “They encourage walking and bicycling while raising the safety awareness of students and parents.”

Beyond the changes visible on the street, the program also will offer local students classes on how to bike and walk to school safely. Community volunteers will be trained to continue the classes after the project concludes.

When looking for potential sites, Public Works engineers sought out streets near schools and planned bike paths in order to maximize the public benefit. Florence-Firestone’s busy streets and high level of pedestrian activity made it the perfect candidate.

According to a 2012 report by the California Highway Patrol, 39% of fatal traffic collisions in LA County involved pedestrians or cyclists. Within the project area, there were six collisions—two of them fatal—involving vehicles and cyclists or pedestrians between 2003 and 2009.

Bill Sadler, regional policy manager for the nonprofit group Safe Routes to School California, said projects like the one approved June 20, 2015 make LA safer for everyone.  This is a safety issue not just for children going to school, but the community that is walking and biking on the streets to other destinations,” he said.

Beyond basic safety, getting more people biking and walking—especially for short trips—improves public health and reduces traffic congestion, he said.

The project is the first of two Safe Routes to School plans being developed by Public Works. A second project, now in the planning stages, will create new bikeways and improve intersections along Hubbard and Sixth streets in East LA. If approved by the Board, it promises safety improvements for even more LA County students.

CREDIT: NewsWorks website of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.

Statement by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas on Suspending Plans for New Jail

jailFor those suffering from mental illness, the worst possible place to heal is county jail. The jail system in the county of Los Angeles is deplorable. And so we have a mandate to act on improving the conditions of the jails and to do so responsibly and holistically.

The Board of Supervisors’ decision to suspend plans to build a new jail until more information is gleaned about alternative options is simply good public policy. We cannot build a new facility until we have more answers about Proposition 47 and other factors that have impacted the inmate population. It is imperative that before we commit billions of dollars on new jails that we feel confident about the projected needs and the review process.

On May 5, I asked that all the departments to present a public report on the status of the jail master plan. And the report we have heard indicates clearly that we must continue to have public conversations about this very important issue. There are a number of questions that remain to be answered before we move forward. While this is an urgent matter, we must get this done correctly.

We need an independent analysis of the actual number of treatment and other beds needed at the new jail, which is being called the Consolidated Correctional Treatment Facility. In addition, we have asked for a broad assessment of all community based alternative options for treatment including, but not limited to, mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Improving Medical Services for Inmates

Twin_Towers_Correctional_Facility (1)

LA County Sheriff’s Department Twin Towers Correctional Facility, where a significant percentage of the jail population with mental illness are currently housed. Credit:

Hoping to improve the medical services provided to jail inmates, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to shift the responsibility from the Sheriff’s Department to the Department of Health Services.

The county currently allocates approximately $330 million and over 2,000 positions per year on health, mental health, and public health services to the roughly 17,500 inmates housed in county jails.  Of this amount, $238 million and more than 1,700 budgeted positions are allocated to the Sheriff’s Medical Services Bureau.  Los Angeles County is the only county in California where the Sheriff’s Department runs its own healthcare system.

“We must provide county inmates with humane and medically sound treatment,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Los Angeles County cannot continue to bring subpar medical attention to those in our custody. Practically everyone who is an expert on this matter agrees that we can no longer continue in this manner. We simply must do better.”

A single, integrated jail health services system would emphasize primary and preventive care, build substance abuse services, enhance jail mental health, improve recruitment, retention and training of qualified staff, and enhance discharge and reentry planning.

In addition, the Board will receive a report by early fall on any anticipated savings, if any, that will come through the new model and how those funds could be used to enhance services.

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