By Kathy Chouteau
Impoverished Contra Costa County residents struggling with mental illness, substance dependence and homelessness while in the criminal legal system will receive expanded support thanks to a new $6 million grant received by the County Office of the Public Defender and the County Health, Housing and Homeless Services Department, per a statement from County Chief Public Defender Ellen McDonnell’s office.
The sizable grant, awarded by the California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC), will significantly increase the Holistic Intervention Partnership (HIP) over the next three years. Initiated as a pilot program in 2020, HIP’s collaborative team of public agencies and community-based organizations support the aforementioned vulnerable County residents in the criminal legal system to improve outcomes.
As part of the new grant, substantial funds will be applied toward preserving or providing housing for approximately 35 percent of public defender clients who are unhoused or at risk, according to the statement. Nearly half of the grant’s budget is reserved for housing staffing and resources, providing “direct dollars for housing, both permanent and short-term, for those impacted by the local criminal legal system.”
According to McDonnell’s office, HIP has been effective in supporting vulnerable county residents, reducing incarceration and increasing public safety. The new grant will bolster HIP’s array of resources, to encompass “immediate legal representation, civil legal advocacy and community based services for at least 900 people over three years.”
“We are so grateful that, with this state grant, we will be able to expand access to critical legal, housing, mental health and reentry services to support those involved in our criminal legal system and ensure that they have the resources that they need in order to be successful in our community,” said McDonnell.
The grant is made possible through Prop 47 revenues, said McDonnell’s office. The 2014 voter-approved initiative reduced penalties from felonies to misdemeanors for a number of nonviolent crimes, in turn directing the state incarceration savings toward increasing community-based resources in jurisdictions throughout California.
The HIP partnership consists of the Contra Costa County Public Defender’s Office; County Health, Housing and Homeless Services; County Behavioral Health Division; County Employment and Human Services Department; Rubicon Programs and its Reentry Success Center; and the Hume Center, per McDonnell’s office.