A countywide coalition of mental health activists, thought leaders and parents will be working to advise the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office on mental health issues in the criminal justice system.
Announced this past Friday, the 26-member District Attorney’s Mental Health Commission will advise the office on how to better respond to criminal justice cases involving people with serious mental illnesses. The hope is to provide care and new pathways, rather than punishment, to the families and loved ones of those with mental health challenges.
“We want to treat people suffering with mental health issues with the care and responsible justice they deserve,” said District Attorney Pamela Price. “The creation of this commission is just the beginning in effecting change. It won’t happen overnight, but rest assured this is a step in the right direction in providing alternatives to mass incarceration.”
The collective closely follows the recent death of an Oakland U.S. Postal Service Worker, Dilma Franks-Spruill. A 28-year-old man with bipolarity and schizophrenia was arrested for allegedly stabbing her to death on Jan. 11.
In response, the suspect’s mother called for a greater push for mental health resources. She previously said it was challenging to encourage her adult son to take his medication and pursue help.
“We need to find a way to get our loved one’s care – not cages,” said Kimberly Graves, a member of Alameda County’s Families Advocating for the Seriously Mentally Ill. “Far too often the only time our family members get treatment is with a criminal sentence and all the additional baggage that comes with it doesn’t help their recovery. There must be a better path to recovery and care in our county.”