Local News Matters weekly newsletter

Start your week with a little inspiration. Sign up for our informative, community-based newsletter, delivered on Mondays with news about the Bay Area.

About 20 people demonstrated in San Leandro recently to demand more hospital beds rather than jail cells and homeless tents for the seriously mentally ill.

The demonstration Friday afternoon started at Foothill Boulevard and Fairmont Drive near Fairmont Hospital by the group Alameda County Families Advocating for the Seriously Mentally Ill.

Overall, the county has 349 psychiatric beds and 333 accepted patients designated as seriously mentally ill, a spokeswoman for Alameda County Behavioral Health said.

A demonstrator described the seriously mentally ill as those who suffer from schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder.

“We want our kids to be taken care of,” said Alison Monroe, whose daughter suffers from a mental illness and who demonstrated Friday.

Her and other’s children, who are now adults, are ending up in jail for offenses they committed while ill.

One child stabbed his mother because he wasn’t on psychiatric medication and had a delusion.

Monroe’s daughter stole soda after a voice told her it was paid for.

“Voices tell her things,” Monroe said.

Cookies designed by the group Alameda County Families Advocating for the Seriously Mentally Ill are used to support the “Care First, Jail Last” policy being considered by Alameda County supervisors. The resolution would give people with mental illness a full chance at receiving and living a stable life, advocates say. (Photo courtesy of Christina Aboud)

The Board of Supervisors Health Committee on Monday was set consider sending a resolution to the full board calling for the need to reduce the number of inmates suffering from mental illness, substance abuse and co-occurring disorders.

The resolution would establish a “Care First, Jails Last” policy that would provide for “a continuum of care that includes a full spectrum of treatment and housing” for the mentally ill. The policy aims to give that group the “full opportunity to receive and live stable lives,” the proposed resolution says.

About 70 to 80 moms and family members make up Alameda County Families Advocating for the Seriously Mentally Ill, which wants to see a change in the system, Monroe said.

They would like to see more than double the number of beds the county has now.

She said children like her daughter don’t know they need help, but family members do know.

Unfortunately, their children can do dangerous and self-destructive things when they are ill.

“Our kids need special help,” Monroe said.

Her daughter has gotten help and it seems to be paying off, she said. Her daughter is now talking about getting a job.

Chair of the Board of Supervisors Health Committee, Supervisor Wilma Chan, did not return a call seeking comment Friday.