LA County Supervisors Vote To Add 16 Jail Mental Health Treatment Beds

The story was originally published in LAist with the support from our 2022 Data Fellowship.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to create a 16-bed facility for incarcerated people living with mental illness in repurposed spaced within the downtown jail complex.

How the beds will be used

The Acute Intervention Module (AIM) is slated to be housed within the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. According to the motion from Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn:

"It is anticipated that those inmates suffering from severe symptoms of a serious mental health disorder will be sent to the AIM, which will provide short-term, intensive care, evaluation, treatment and further assessment."

The designation of the AIM space is crucial to the county's ability to meet two provisions in a federal settlement agreement that ordered the county to improve jail conditions for people living with mental illnesses.

Those conditions are:

  • Sufficient housing for the jailed population with mental illness
  • Sufficient licensed inpatient mental health beds

Why it matters

Roughly 40% of the more than 13,000 people incarcerated within L.A. County’s jail system have mental health needs. County-appointed jail monitors as well as jail reform advocates have been ringing the alarm about jail conditions for people living with mental illness.

The backstory

Last fall, a court-appointed monitor tasked with keeping tabs on jail conditions reported that “given the Department’s existing housing capacity and the population of inmates with mental illness... the County remains far from Substantial Compliance with both provisions.”

County-appointed jail monitors, as well as jail reform advocates, have been ringing the alarm about jail conditions for people living with mental illness. Last year, one monitor described “Dickensian” conditions at the downtown jails amid a shortage of psychiatric staff.

What's next

The decision to convert existing jail space comes as attorneys with the ACLU are asking a federal judge to hold the county in contempt for allegedly failing to improve what the ACLU called “abysmal” conditions at the Inmate Reception Center (IRC). The contempt hearing is scheduled for June 27 and stems from a separate case.

According to the motion approved 5-0 Tuesday, the goal is to grow the AIM by 32 beds, if it's a success. No deadline on any expansion was provided.