Thursday, January 22, 2015

stop TPP-- thx to Barbara Jeter-Jackson, Francena Amparo, April Marie Farley, Micki Strawinski, and Dominic Ignaffo for signing my letter tonight-- call Congress at (866) 338-1015 to kill it before it grows!...

[thx to my Co. Leg. colleagues Barbara Jeter-Jackson, Francena Amparo, April Marie Farley, Micki Strawinski, and Dominic Ignaffo for all agreeing earlier at tonight's County Legislature full board meeting to sign this letter below circulated by yours truly re: TPP-- see www.StopTPP.org !...J] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - January 22, 2015 President Barack Obama: Senate Leader Mitch McConnell: House Speaker John Boehner: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: Senator Charles Schumer: Representative Chris Gibson: Representative Sean Patrick Maloney: Washington, D.C. 20500 Dear National Leaders: The Trans-Pacific Partnership would create a super-treaty which would jeopardize the sovereignty of the nations involved by giving that power to large corporations like Wal-Mart, Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, Halliburton, Philip Morris, GE, GM, Apple. * There are currently 11 nations involved: U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico and Canada. Japan has shown interest. * The economic power of this group is more than 40% larger than the 27- nation European Union. * TPP will offshore millions of good-paying jobs to low-wage nations, undercutting working conditions globally and increasing unemployment. * TPP will expand pharmaceutical monopoly protections and institute longer patents that will decrease access to affordable medications. * TPP will limit food GMO labeling and allow the import of goods that do not meet US safe standards. * TPP will institute SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA-like regulations and Internet measures which restrict our right to free speech. * TPP will roll back Wall Street regulations, and prohibit bans on risky financial services. * TPP will give multinational corporations and private investors the right to sue nations in private tribunals. These tribunals have the power to overturn environmental, labor, or any other laws that limit profit, awarding taxpayer funded damages. * TPP will encourage the privatization of lands and natural resources in areas where indigenous people live. We, the undersigned various members of the Dutchess County Legislature, strongly urge you to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership for the reasons noted above— and thank you for your attention to this matter.

re: free community college-- four Dem Co. Leg.'s sign on to my letter tonight in support of new Obama idea-- call Congress at (866) 338-1015 to build support!...

[thx to four of my Democratic Caucus colleagues-- Barbara Jeter-Jackson, April Marie Farley, Micki Strawinski, and Gwen Johnson-- for signing on to this letter here below circulated by yours truly at our County Legislature's full board meeting a bit earlier tonight; for more see: www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/09/fact-sheet-white-house-unveils-america-s-college-promise-proposal-tuitio ] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - January 22, 2015 President Barack Obama: Senate Leader Mitch McConnell: House Speaker John Boehner: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: Senator Charles Schumer: Representative Chris Gibson: Representative Sean Patrick Maloney: Washington, D.C. 20500 Dear National Leaders: We, the undersigned various members of the Dutchess County Legislature, ask you to make President Obama’s America’s College Promise proposal reality in 2015 for Dutchess County residents and all Americans-- to make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and earn skills needed in the workforce at no cost. In the past year, Tennessee and the City of Chicago initiated free community college programs. In the first year of the Tennessee program, 57,000 students representing almost 90 percent of the state’s high school graduating class applied for the program. The scholarship is coupled with college counseling, mentorship, and community service that early evidence suggests supports greater enrollment, persistence and college completion. This is coupled with efforts to spur innovation and improvement by funding colleges using performance outcomes based on student success and an innovative approach to career and technical education through the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology. These Tennessee Tech Centers have a graduation rate of 80 percent and a job placement rate of 85 percent. President Obama’s proposal will require everyone to do their part-- community colleges must strengthen their programs and increase the number of students who graduate, states must invest more in higher education and training, and students must take responsibility for their education, earn good grades, and stay on track to graduate. The program would be undertaken in partnership with states and is inspired by new programs in Tennessee and Chicago. If all states participate, an estimated 9 million students could benefit. By 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree. Forty percent of college students are enrolled at one of America’s more than 1,100 community colleges, which offer students affordable tuition, open admission policies, and convenient locations. They are particularly important for students who are older, working, need remedial classes, or can only take classes part-time. For many students, they offer academic programs and an affordable route to a four-year college degree. They are also uniquely positioned to partner with employers to create tailored training programs to meet economic needs within their communities such as nursing, health information technology, and advanced manufacturing. Students who attend at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA while in college, and make steady progress toward completing this program will have their tuition eliminated for a two-year degree or half of a four-year degree.

for veterans-- guaranteed income!...strong Dem Co. Leg. caucus support tonight for my letter on this-- call Congress at (866) 338-1015 to follow up!...

[thx to my fellow Dem caucus county legislators Barbara Jeter-Jackson, Francena Amparo, April Marie Farley, Micki Strawinski, Rich Perkins, Dominic Ignaffo-- even Gwen Johnson-- for signing on to this letter here below drafted by yours truly and circulated at tonight's full board meeting of our County Legislature; see here for more: www.garalperovitz.com/2015/01/guaranteed-income-veterans/ ] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - January 22, 2015 President Barack Obama: Senate Leader Mitch McConnell: House Speaker John Boehner: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: Senator Charles Schumer: Representative Chris Gibson: Representative Sean Patrick Maloney: Washington, D.C. 20500 Dear National Leaders: As Gar Alperovitz of the Democracy Collaborative wrote recently, “Whether or not one agrees with the decisions taken by our political leaders who sent them off to war, it’s undeniable that the veterans of the various post-9/11 wars are suffering. The nearly 3 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who have returned to civilian life are afflicted with an official unemployment rate of about 9 percent — substantially higher than the overall rate of 5.6 percent. Another half million have the left the labor force entirely. Many struggle with poverty, foreclosure and homelessness brought on by an anemic and uneven recovery and compounded by the mental and physical scars of war.” Alperovitz: “Only the most callous among us would find it easy to disown the obligation we owe to those who have demonstrated willingness to put their bodies in the line of fire on our behalf. Veterans offer a chance to think clearly about how best we can help those in need — and if the primary problem we must solve is that far too many veterans lack an income to support themselves, why don’t we just provide it for them?” Alperovitz: “Veterans are an obvious place to begin for other reasons as well: The veterans’ pension already guarantees a modest minimum income to returning servicemen and servicewomen unable to work because of disability or age. To qualify, a veteran must have served on active duty (including at least one day during wartime), be older than 65 or disabled and have an income of less than approximately $13,000 (for a single veteran without dependents). The road to a guaranteed income would begin by revamping this system. Simply removing the age and disability requirements from the existing pension system could guarantee a minimum income that would bring all the veterans of recent wars above the poverty line, at a maximum cost of roughly $5.5 billion a year.” Alperovitz: “This is a mere one-thirtieth of the roughly $170 billion spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan each year from 2007 to 2011 (the height of those conflicts) and one-twelfth of what was spent to bail out the insurance company AIG during the 2008 financial crisis. Even topping off the salary of the veterans of all the various “wars on terrorism” to a comfortable $50,000 a year would cost at most $70 billion (with actual costs considerably less). Moreover, as the income floor rises, the need for other social services decreases, reducing costs — a key point emphasized by conservative advocates for basic income legislation.” We, the undersigned various members of the Dutchess County Legislature, ask that you guarantee an income for veterans here in Dutchess County and across the U.S.; they put themselves on the line for us; it’s our turn.

fully fund our schools, municipalities-- thx to five Dem Co. Leg.'s for signing my AQE/FPI solidarity letter tonight to Cuomo and state legislators-- follow up by calling them yourselves at (877) 255-9417!...

[drafted by yours truly and signed by my fellow Democratic County Legislators Barbara Jeter-Jackson, Francena Amparo, April Marie Farley, Micki Strawinski, and Rich Perkins at our County Legislature's full board meeting earlier tonight; see www.AQENY.org ; www.FiscalPolicy.org for more...J] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- January 22, 2015 Governor Andrew Cuomo: Senate Leader Dean Skelos: Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver: State Senators Sue Serino and Terrence Murphy: Assembly Members Didi Barrett, Kevin Cahill, Kieran Michael Lalor, and Frank Skartados: Albany, NY 12224 Dear State Leaders: We, the undersigned various members of the Dutchess County Legislature, ask that you follow the recommendations of the letter from the Alliance for Quality Education, Assembly Member Catherine Nolan, Chair of the New York State Assembly Education Committee, Senator Kevin Parker, and 81 other legislators (including Kevin Cahill and Frank Skartados) in the Assembly and Senate calling on the Governor to increase education funding by $2.2 billion to reverse the cuts of prior years and prepare our students for the global economy. The letter also backs the Board of Regents recommendation for $250 million for full-day pre-K throughout the state (currently, outside New York City only 4 percent of children have access to state-supported full-day pre-K). We call on the Governor and the New York State Legislature to fully fund public schools by fulfilling the commitment made in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement. It’s time to close the shameful $8,700 per student funding gap between our richest and our poorest school districts-- the largest this gap has ever been-- resulting in cuts to kindergarten, Pre-K, art, music, sports, after school programs, career and technical education and more; since 2011, state aid has been at historically low levels as a share of total school spending. As the Fiscal Policy Institute note, “The executive budget also holds funding flat for Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) at $715 million— this is unacceptable. Reduced state aid has put pressure on local property taxes-- this unrestricted state support to cities, towns, and villages has dropped by 75% in inflation-adjusted dollars since the 1980s. The rate of decline has slowed in recent years but funding for this program has continued to erode, after accounting for inflation. The Governor proposed a property tax relief plan that links homeowners and renters income to their property tax burden, but only homeowners who live in tax cap-compliant areas will receive relief, and the funding mechanism is based on cutting future budgets— this is unacceptable. The executive budget projects a decrease in funding to critical human service programs. This is on top of over $1 billion in cuts to human services since 2009. Child poverty rates in NYS have reached epic levels in many of our upstate cities. Currently more than 1 in 5 children throughout the state live in poverty.” More from the Fiscal Policy Institute— “The Governor should put his austerity budgeting behind him by scrapping his self-imposed 2% state spending cap. Otherwise, his proposed new measures to address poverty will necessarily be paid for by cutting important human services spending elsewhere in the budget. These important new initiatives must go hand-in-hand with meaningful funding restorations in human services and higher education along with targeted school aid to high-needs districts (not dependent on reforms) and new resources for fiscally-stressed local governments. State tax revenues, total wages and personal income are projected to grow by 4-5% annually over the next four years. There is no reason to hold annual spending growth below 2% if it means that we are under-investing in education and poverty reduction. The sheer magnitude of continued spending cuts forced by the 2% spending cap-- $ 1.7 billion in FY2017, $3.3 in FY2018 and $4.8 in FY2019-- will starve our schools and public universities and prevent our state from making the investments needed to expand opportunities for those struggling to lift themselves out of poverty.” Dutchess County cannot afford for the above issues to be ignored— we call on you in Albany to make these changes.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

check out Open Raleigh-- model for Dutchess-- let's REALLY encourage local residents to have some SERIOUS input into ALL of our county government!...

[email all 25 of us at countylegislators@dutchessny.gov if you agree with me on this one; for more check out www.raleighnc.gov/open ; www.opensource.com/government/13/10/future-open-source-city ; www.yesmagazine.org/issues/cities-are-now/three-ideas-for-inclusive-cities !] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [text here below of resolution just submitted by yours truly to Co. Leg. offices on this] REQUESTING THAT DUTCHESS COUNTY OFFICE OF CENTRAL AND INFORMATION SERVICES EVALUATE COST AND FEASIBILITY OF OPEN DUTCHESS WEBSITE EXPERIMENT SIMILAR TO OPEN RALEIGH WEBSITE SEPARATE FROM OFFICIAL DUTCHESS COUNTY GOVERNMENT WEBSITE WHEREAS, Dutchess County government needs to do everything it can to involve Dutchess County residents as much as possible with as many means as possible in our county government, and WHEREAS, in Raleigh, North Carolina, local residents there don’t have to sit through hours of evening meetings at City Hall to engage with their local government; public participation can happen any time, any place, as long as a good Internet connection is available, and WHEREAS, Open Raleigh is like a Wikipedia page for city data; information is free, easy to access, and editable by anyone; the citywide initiative aims to bring transparency to government and foster public participation using an open-source web platform, and WHEREAS, Raleigh residents can provide direct input on everything from budget proposals to development applications or click through pages of public finance, police, or environmental data; it’s all there, presented in colorful, interactive charts and graphs, and easily searchable by “keyword” or “most public comments"; it’s all editable, too, and residents can reorganize, revisualize, and repost data, and WHEREAS, the City of Raleigh website calls the project a “living document under the guiding principles of availability and access, reuse and redistribution, and universal participation”; it’s open governance with an IP address, and WHEREAS, Open Raleigh, as a brand, emphasizes data accessibility and information usability; there is no transparency without data usability; Open Raleigh emphasizes engagement and interactivity with data; tabular rows of numbers and machine-readable formats of GIS shape data are there for those that want to analyze the raw data themselves; for the other 99% there are visualizations that explain the numbers, and therefore be it RESOLVED, that the Dutchess County Legislature requests that the Dutchess County Office of Central and Information Services evaluate the cost and feasibility, as an experiment in democracy, of a super-interative Open Dutchess website similar to Open Raleigh, separate from the current official Dutchess County government website, and report back to the Dutchess County Legislature on this, and be it further RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Dutchess County Executive and Dutchess County Commissioner of Central Information Systems - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - From www.yesmagazine.org/issues/cities-are-now/three-ideas-for-inclusive-cities ... Three Ideas for Inclusive Cities: How Raleigh, Seattle, and Others Are Bringing Everyone Into the Fold From city-issued ID cards to open-source data anyone can access, simple urban innovations are creating more transparent and equitable cities. by Shannan Stoll [excerpt here below] posted Jan 14, 2015 Open-source city hall helps you track what's happening—without all the boring meetings. in: Raleigh, N.C. In Raleigh, N.C., residents don’t have to sit through hours of evening meetings at City Hall to engage with their local government. Public participation can happen any time, any place—so long as a good Internet connection is available. Open Raleigh is like a Wikipedia page for city data. Information is free, easy to access, and editable by anyone. The citywide initiative aims to bring transparency to government and foster public participation using an open-source web platform. Residents can provide direct input on everything from budget proposals to development applications or click through pages of public finance, police, or environmental data. It’s all there, presented in colorful, interactive charts and graphs, and easily searchable by “keyword” or “most public comments.” It’s all editable, too, and residents can reorganize, revisualize, and repost data. The city’s website calls the project a “living document under the guiding principles of availability and access, reuse and redistribution, and universal participation.” It’s open governance with an IP address.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Dutchess Taxpayers United forming-- just need twenty of you to come forward from across county!...

Hi all... We need your help to form Dutchess Taxpayers United-- starting with at least twenty of you needed from all over our county now: Amenia, Beacon, Beekman, Dover, East Fishkill, Fishkill, Hyde Park, LaGrange, Milan, Millerton/North East, Pawling, Pine Plains, Pleasant Valley, Poughkeepsie (City/Town), Red Hook/Tivoli, Rhinebeck, Stanford, Union Vale, Wappinger, Millbrook/Washington-- new activist superstars to come forward folks!... Join us for first Dutchess Taxpayers United meeting this Weds. Jan. 14th at Rhinebeck Town Hall: 8 pm. at 80 East Market Street there-- after our 6 pm second New Economy Coalition of the Hudson Valley potluck with David McCarthy of www.HVCurrent.org and the Center for Civil Economics... [recall-- even the Poughkeepsie Journal reported Dec. 6 that GOP voted to RAISE county tax rate-- "Under the 2015 county budget adopted Thursday night, county residents will see the property tax rate increase, from $3.65 per $1000 of assessed valuation to $3.68." www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/local/2014/12/05/dutchess-county-budget-decrease-spending-slight-increase-taxes/19964371/] We need YOU all to come forward to help us build Dutchess Taxpayers United-- for these 10 reasons... We need YOU all to help make sure truth gets out to gov. officials, media, and voters for ten reasons: [need help to make sure Co. Leg. Dems embrace these ten innovative, cost-saving win-win solutions-- so that at the very least all ten of these are put on Co. Leg. agenda and GOP held accountable in Nov.!] 1. Dutchess could save $$$ diverting mentally ill, state parole violators, low-bail from jail, real re-entry. [Miami-Dade County, San Antonio, Tompkins County, Albany County, National Institute of Correction] www.csgjusticecenter.org/mental-health/media-clips/solutions-to-woes-of-mentally-ill-exist-but-arent-used/ ; www.PYHIT.com www.dailynews.com/general-news/20140630/los-angeles-county-looks-at-how-to-handle-mentally-ill-inmates-in-jails www.archive.poughkeepsiejournal.com/article/20130721/NEWS01/307210065/%3E www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/08/19/338895262/mental-health-cops-help-reweave-social-safety-net-in-san-antonio www.JobsNotJails.weebly.com ; www.ENJAN.org ; www.OARTompkinsCounty.com 2. Dutchess could save $$$ diverting at-risk youth from institutional care by pro-actively investing early. [just-retired Dutchess County Community and Family Services Commissioner Robert Allers pointed out in our County Legislature's Chambers last November that because of a recent cut in mental health services that there's actually been a 19 percent increase in youth being institutionalized in Dutchess County(!)] www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/opinion/valley-views/2014/12/01/tyner-dutchess-budget/19743753/ www.change.org/p/dutchess-county-legislature-stop-dutchess-county-jail-expansion-invest-in-people 3. Dutchess could save $$$ stopping county taxpayers from subsidizing poverty wages at Wal-Mart. [May 2013 report from House Committee on Education and the Workforce] www.web006.westchestergov.com/articles/11206a.pdf ; www.m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3365814 www.democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/sites/democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/files/documents/WalMartReport-May2013.pdf www.sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/11/04/data-shows-unemployment-down-growth-robust-after-san-jose-adopts-10-minimum-wage-measure-d-scott-myers-lipton-san-jose-state-university/ www.irle.berkeley.edu/workingpapers/157-07.pdf www.salon.com/2014/06/08/robert_reich_seattle_is_leading_a_long_overdue_movement_toward_a_living_wage_partner/ 4. Dutchess could save $$$ divesting official county accounts from Wall Street to Main Street banks. [Albany County closed $93 million account with Bank of America and account with JPMorgan Chase; Buffalo, Binghamton, Ithaca, Hempstead, Freeport, and Hempstead have all closed Chase accounts as well] www.midhudsonnews.com/News/2012/April/09/DC_bank_div-09Apr12.html www.dutchessdemocracy.blogspot.com/2011/12/fact-dutchess-county-has-50-million.html?m=1 www.m.bizjournals.com/albany/print-edition/2011/06/10/albany-county-legislators-want-to.html?r=full www.wnymedia.net/2012/05/buffalo-sides-with-new-york-homeowners-closes-45-million-jp-morgan-chase-account-in-protest/ www.nycommunities.org/node/1354 5. Dutchess could save $$$ investing in Nubian Directions rehab abandoned homes in Poughkeepsie. www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/videos/tech/science/environment/2014/10/21/17665701/ 6. Dutchess could save $$$ with no-money-down solar panels for county buildings and property. [Towns of Clarkstown and Esopus and Schenectady County all have no-money down solar, saving $$$] www.patch.com/new-york/newcity/town-of-clarkstown-breaks-ground-on-solar-field-on-closed-west-nyack-landfill_2531b9ae www.dailyfreeman.com//general-news/20140804/esopus-solar-array-makes-enough-electricity-to-make-town-energy-independent www.dutchessdemocracy.blogspot.com/2013/05/molinaro-no-to-solar-even-tho-co-leg.html?m=1 7. Dutchess could save $$$ w/energy-efficiency retrofits-- county buildings, homeowners, & businesses; www.dutchessdemocracy.blogspot.com/2009/03/our-bright-idea-growin-brighter-and.html www.TheSolutionsProject.org ; www.nweac.org ; www.GreenforAll.org www.web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/NewYorkWWSEnPolicy.pdf [my county green jobs/savings initiatives given lip service by GOP-- www.SolarizeNewYork.org ; www.energizeny.org/eic -- time for true action on these in 2015!] 8. Dutchess could save $$$ by moving meaningfully towards zero waste not incineration and landfilling. 9. Dutchess could save $$$ protecting public health by limiting toxic chemicals in our environment now. [Albany County just banned toxic toys; GOP in Rockland/Westchester limit pesticides and MTBE/water] www.m.timesunion.com/local/article/Albany-County-exec-signs-toxic-toy-ban-5999998.php www.dutchessdemocracy.blogspot.com/2013/07/re-well-testing-and-pesticide.html?m=1 10. Dutchess could save $$$: Locally Owned Import Substitution, worker cooperatives, microenterprise [Cleveland is prime example of all this-- helping low-income folks get good jobs saves on welfare] www.EvergreenCooperatives.com ; www.democracycollaborative.org/cwbpolicy www.thenation.com/article/cleveland-model?page=full ; www.neweconomy.net www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/new-economy-home> www.thenation.com/article/160949/new-economy-movement ; www.gethudsonvalley.org www.northerndutchess.org/images/NDABlueprintWeb.pdf ; www.mycommunityloanfund.org www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/new-economy-home [...and yes-- letters to editor to local papers needed too-- help us launch Dutchess Taxpayers United!] Yes-- we Democrats CAN and WILL take back Dutchess County government... But first you wonderful activists out there are needed to wake up at least my eight Democratic Co. Leg. colleagues to the win-win, cost-saving benefits of all ten of these innovations listed here-- to make sure that our County Legislature's Democratic Caucus puts these ten on the agenda for Co. Leg. meetings between now and November... [...and then voters and all of us can hold GOP accountable during election time this year if they vote these initiatives down or fail to allow then on to Co. Leg. meeting agenda!] Pass it on... Joel 845-464-2245/453-2105/876-2488 joeltyner@earthlink.net Dutchess Taxpayers United - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [thx again tons to 5 of my Dem Co. Leg. colleagues (Barbara Jeter-Jackson, Alison MacAvery, Francena Amparo, April Marie Farley-- even new Hyde Park Co. Leg. Nick Ignaffo) for signing on to this letter here below circulated by yours truly at last Tues.'s full board mtg. of our County Legislature-- for Dutchess County to follow the amazingly effective cost-saving Miami-Dade County example of diverting mentally ill from jail-- email countylegislators@dutchessny.gov and countyexec@dutchessny.gov to follow up!] [recall-- 80 percent of Dutchess County Jail inmates have substance abuse or mental health issues according to our county's Criminal Justice Council itself and half of those arrested in county are addicts according to recent op-ed Valley Views in Poughkeepsie Journal from former Co. Leg. Debra Blalock-- www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/opinion/valley-views/2014/11/22/column-dutchess-budget/19421975/ ] January 6, 2015 Mr. Marcus Molinaro Dutchess County Executive 22 Market Street Poughkeepsie, NY 12601 Dear County Executive Molinaro (Marc): We, the various undersigned members of the Dutchess County Legislature, strongly urge you to work with us to make sure that Dutchess County follows the incredibly successful, cost-saving example below of Miami-Dade County¹s Judicial Criminal Mental Health Project-- to divert nonviolent mentally ill folks from being arrested and then being unnecessarily locked up at great expense in the Dutchess County Jail. As USA Today reported December 22nd, ³Last year, crisis intervention teams in Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami responded to more than 10,000 mental illness-related calls, yet made only nine arrests. Police referred one-third of the people involved in these calls to crisis stabilization units, free-standing emergency psychiatric facilities for short-term stays. For those who are arrested, jail psychiatrists screen inmates for mental illness and refer those who appear ill to social workers. Judges can arrange for inmates to be transferred out of jail into a crisis stabilization unit, where inmates can be treated for up to two weeks, Leifman says. Once they are stabilized, about 80% of defendants agree to treatment, Leifman says. That's partly because of the influence of peer specialists ¬ graduates of the program who explain the advantages of opting for treatment rather than jail. State attorneys can drop charges, reduce charges or give inmates credit for time served, allowing people to avoid jail and a criminal record.² www.csgjusticecenter.org/mental-health/media-clips/solutions-to-woes-of-mentally-ill-exist-but-arent-used/ More from USA Today December 22nd‹ ³Because inmates with mental illness are often homeless, program staffers help them get stable housing and apply for Medicaid and disability payments. Many inmates have benefits arranged by the time they leave jail. Since Leifman's program began, the fraction of people with a serious mental illness who are rearrested for a misdemeanor within a year has fallen from 72% to 20%, Leifman says. Altogether, Leifman¹s programs have helped reduce the jail census from 7,800 inmates at a time to 4,800, allowing Miami-Dade County to close one of its jails, at a savings of $12 million a year, he says. The county has funneled some of the money back into Leifman¹s program. Leifman¹s next project is a 187,000-square-foot Œforensic diversion center,¹ which will provide one-stop shopping for many of his participants, with a courtroom; a crisis stabilization unit; a facility to provide up to 90 days of residential mental health treatment; a rehabilitation center, where people can attend daytime programs; and a commercial kitchen where people can prepare for jobs in food service. Eventually, Leifman hopes to open a supportive housing program on the site.² www.csgjusticecenter.org/mental-health/media-clips/solutions-to-woes-of-mentally-ill-exist-but-arent-used/ As the Daily News reported last June 30th-- "There are robust programs to divert the mentally ill from being jailed across the country, and one of the most successful has been that of Miami/Dade County in Florida, developed by Judge Steven Leifman. ŒWe actually closed one of our local jails last year because of the success of the program. That saved the county over $12 million a year.¹ Called the Criminal Mental Health Project, Miami/Dade County¹s diversion program involves training police officers and 9-1-1 operators to spot the signs of mental illness, and providing access to medical treatment, rehab, housing, and other services for those accused of minor crimes. It has allowed 16,000 to 19,000 people to be diverted from jail every year, some of whom have been able to turn their lives around." There is no excuse for Dutchess County not to do this as well. www.dailynews.com/general-news/20140630/los-angeles-county-looks-at-how-to-handle-mentally-ill-inmates-in-jails Thank you for your attention to this-- Dutchess doesn¹t need and can¹t afford the status quo for our mentally ill. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [see: www.scpr.org/news/2014/07/15/45334/la-may-look-to-miami-for-jail-crowding-solutions/ ; again-- recall "Jail Is No Place for the Mentally Ill" by Nancy Fogel (from PoJo Dec. 21st): www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/opinion/valley-views/2014/12/20/jail-place-mentally/20708123/ ....and-- "Fund Treatment With Savings From Jail Pods" by Debra Blalock (also re: mentally ill) [Debra pointed out that almost half of Dutchess County inmates have addiction problems; echoing same point made by Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council report from late 2012-- facts; recall as well-- "Dutchess County Budget Can Be Improved" (by yours truly-- also re: mentally ill) ; report < NYC Mayor De Blasio's Task Force on Behavioral HealthCriminal Justice System: www1.nyc.gov/assets/criminaljustice/downloads/pdf/annual-report-complete.pdf ; www.nytimes.com/2014/12/13/opinion/keeping-the-mentally-ill-out-of-jail.html ; www.nytimes.com/2014/12/02/nyregion/new-york-city-to-expand-health-services-for-mentally-ill-inmates.html?ref=nyregion&_r=1 ...Dutchess can/should follow NYC/Miami cost-saving examples]

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

five Co. Leg. Dems sign my letter to divert mentally ill from jail here as in Miami-Dade County-- help us push on this in 2015!...

[thanks tons to five of my Dem Co. Leg. colleagues (Barbara Jeter-Jackson, Alison MacAvery, Francena Amparo, April Marie Farley, and Nick Ignaffo) for just now at tonight's Co. Leg. full board meeting signing on to this letter here below circulated by yours truly-- for Dutchess County to follow the amazingly effective cost-saving Miami-Dade County example of diverting mentally ill from their jail-- email countylegislators@dutchessny.gov and countyexec@dutchessny.gov to follow up!...Joel] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - From: Joel Tyner (joeltyner@earthlink.net) To: countyexec@dutchessny.gov Subject: County Executive Molinaro (Marc)-- Barbara, Alison, Francena, April, Nick and I signed this letter to you tonight re: Miami-Dade example-- pls act; thx!...Joel Date: Jan 6, 2015 8:36 PM January 6, 2015 Mr. Marcus Molinaro, Dutchess County Executive 22 Market Street Poughkeepsie, NY 12601 Dear County Executive Molinaro (Marc): We, the undersigned members of the Dutchess County Legislature, strongly urge you to work with us to make sure that Dutchess County follows the incredibly successful, cost-saving example below of Miami-Dade County’s Judicial Criminal Mental Health Project-- to divert nonviolent mentally ill folks from being arrested and then being unnecessarily locked up at great expense in the Dutchess County Jail. As USA Today reported December 22nd, “Last year, crisis intervention teams in Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami responded to more than 10,000 mental illness-related calls, yet made only nine arrests. Police referred one-third of the people involved in these calls to crisis stabilization units, free-standing emergency psychiatric facilities for short-term stays. For those who are arrested, jail psychiatrists screen inmates for mental illness and refer those who appear ill to social workers. Judges can arrange for inmates to be transferred out of jail into a crisis stabilization unit, where inmates can be treated for up to two weeks, Leifman says. Once they are stabilized, about 80% of defendants agree to treatment, Leifman says. That¹s partly because of the influence of peer specialists ¬ graduates of the program who explain the advantages of opting for treatment rather than jail. State attorneys can drop charges, reduce charges or give inmates credit for time served, allowing people to avoid jail and a criminal record.” More from USA Today December 22nd— “Because inmates with mental illness are often homeless, program staffers help them get stable housing and apply for Medicaid and disability payments. Many inmates have benefits arranged by the time they leave jail. Since Leifman¹s program began, the fraction of people with a serious mental illness who are rearrested for a misdemeanor within a year has fallen from 72% to 20%, Leifman says. Altogether, Leifman’s programs have helped reduce the jail census from 7,800 inmates at a time to 4,800, allowing Miami-Dade County to close one of its jails, at a savings of $12 million a year, he says. The county has funneled some of the money back into Leifman’s program. Leifman’s next project is a 187,000-square-foot ‘forensic diversion center,’ which will provide one-stop shopping for many of his participants, with a courtroom; a crisis stabilization unit; a facility to provide up to 90 days of residential mental health treatment; a rehabilitation center, where people can attend daytime programs; and a commercial kitchen where people can prepare for jobs in food service. Eventually, Leifman hopes to open a supportive housing program on the site.” As the Daily News reported last June 30th-- "There are robust programs to divert the mentally ill from being jailed across the country, and one of the most successful has been that of Miami/Dade County in Florida, developed by Judge Steven Leifman. ‘We actually closed one of our local jails last year because of the success of the program. That saved the county over $12 million a year.’ Called the Criminal Mental Health Project, Miami/Dade County’s diversion program involves training police officers and 9-1-1 operators to spot the signs of mental illness, and providing access to medical treatment, rehab, housing, and other services for those accused of minor crimes. It has allowed 16,000 to 19,000 people to be diverted from jail every year, some of whom have been able to turn their lives around." There is no excuse for Dutchess County not to do this as well. Thank you for your attention to this-- Dutchess doesn’t need and can’t afford the status quo for our mentally ill. #################################################### More info: www.dailynews.com/general-news/20140630/los-angeles-county-looks-at-how-to-handle-mentally-ill-inmates-in-jails www.scpr.org/news/2014/07/15/45334/la-may-look-to-miami-for-jail-crowding-solutions/ [recall: "Jail Is No Place for the Mentally Ill" by Nancy Fogel (from PoJo Dec. 21st): www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/opinion/valley-views/2014/12/20/jail-place-mentally/20708123/ ....and-- "Fund Treatment With Savings From Jail Pods" by Debra Blalock (also re: mentally ill) www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/opinion/valley-views/2014/11/22/column-dutchess-budget/19421975/ [Debra pointed out that almost half of Dutchess County inmates have addiction problems; echoing same point made by Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council report from late 2012-- fact] Recall as well-- "Dutchess County Budget Can Be Improved" (by yours truly-- also re: mentally ill): www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/opinion/valley-views/2014/12/01/tyner-dutchess-budget/19743753/ ; report from NYC Mayor De Blasio's Task Force on Behavioral HealthCriminal Justice System: www1.nyc.gov/assets/criminaljustice/downloads/pdf/annual-report-complete.pdf ; www.nytimes.com/2014/12/13/opinion/keeping-the-mentally-ill-out-of-jail.html ; www.nytimes.com/2014/12/02/nyregion/new-york-city-to-expand-health-services-for-mentally-ill-inmates.html?ref=nyregion&_r=1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Solutions to Woes of Mentally Ill Exist but Aren¹t Used December 22, 2014 USA Today By Liz Sabo www.csgjusticecenter.org/mental-health/media-clips/solutions-to-woes-of-mentally-ill-exist-but-arent-used/ Changing the System, ŒWe Have Educated a Whole Community¹ Judge Steven Leifman says he¹s seen too many wasted lives. People with mental illness have long filled both his courtroom and the Miami-Dade County jail, which has become the largest psychiatric institution in Florida. About 20,000 of the 114,000 bookings there last year involved people who needed intensive psychiatric treatment while incarcerated, says Leifman, an associate administrative judge for the Miami-Dade County Court¹s criminal division. Nationally, 2 million people with mental illness go to jail every year, according to a 2013 study in Psychiatric Services in Advance. Many people with mental illness are arrested for relatively minor crimes ­ such as loitering or causing a public disturbance ­ more related to their illness or addiction, rather than an intent to do harm, Leifman says. Locking up people with mental illness is not just inhumane, Leifman says. It¹s also expensive. Judge Steven Leifman started the Miami-Dade County Jail Diversion Program in Miami. In Florida, one of every three mental health dollars is spent on ³competency restoration² ‹ treating mentally ill people who¹ve been accused of felonies, so they are competent to stand trial, Leifman says. That money doesn¹t pay for continuing mental health services after trial, so people typically leave jail no better than before, often getting rearrested within weeks or months. As states have closed psychiatric hospitals and scaled back mental health services, more people with mental illness wind up in jail, Leifman says. People with serious mental illness are actually more likely to be incarcerated than hospitalized, a 2007 study found. The Judicial Criminal Mental Health Project, which Leifman founded in 2000, aims to redesign the system at every level, to keep people with serious mental illness out of jail. ³It¹s taken us 14 years, but we have educated a whole community,² Leifman says. More than 4,400 police officers have been trained to approach calls for service in a different way. Following a model pioneered in Memphis police officers in the Miami metro area are trained to calm people down and refer them to help. Last year, crisis intervention teams in Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami responded to more than 10,000 mental illness-related calls, yet made only nine arrests. Police referred one-third of the people involved in these calls to crisis stabilization units, free-standing emergency psychiatric facilities for short-term stays. For those who are arrested, jail psychiatrists screen inmates for mental illness and refer those who appear ill to social workers. Judges can arrange for inmates to be transferred out of jail into a crisis stabilization unit, where inmates can be treated for up to two weeks, Leifman says. Once they are stabilized, about 80% of defendants agree to treatment, Leifman says. That¹s partly because of the influence of peer specialists ­ graduates of the program who explain the advantages of opting for treatment rather than jail. State attorneys can drop charges, reduce charges or give inmates credit for time served, allowing people to avoid jail and a criminal record. Because inmates with mental illness are often homeless, program staffers help them get stable housing and apply for Medicaid and disability payments. Many inmates have benefits arranged by the time they leave jail. Since Leifman¹s program began, the fraction of people with a serious mental illness who are rearrested for a misdemeanor within a year has fallen from 72% to 20%, Leifman says. Altogether, Leifman¹s programs have helped reduce the jail census from 7,800 inmates at a time to 4,800, allowing Miami-Dade County to close one of its jails, at a savings of $12 million a year, he says. The county has funneled some of the money back into Leifman¹s program. Leifman¹s next project is a 187,000-square-foot ³forensic diversion center,² which will provide one-stop shopping for many of his participants, with a courtroom; a crisis stabilization unit; a facility to provide up to 90 days of residential mental health treatment; a rehabilitation center, where people can attend daytime programs; and a commercial kitchen where people can prepare for jobs in food service. Eventually, Leifman hopes to open a supportive housing program on the site. Mental health advocates such as Honberg see the Miami-Dade program as a national model. ³Judge Leifman deserves a lot of credit for persistence,² says Fred Osher of the Council of State Governments¹ Justice Center, a non-profit research and policy center. The Miami-Dade project stands out because it tackles some of the greatest problems facing people with mental illness ­ lack of treatment, drug addiction, homelessness, incarceration ­ at many levels, bringing together people from across the community, Osher says. ³We¹re spending a lot of money already² to incarcerate people with mental illness, Osher says. ³We¹re not getting any return on our investment. Let¹s get smarter about how we use these scarce resources.² Though Osher says he¹d like to see Miami¹s success replicated around the country, he says judges can¹t do it alone. Communities and state lawmakers have to fund services ‹ from mental health clinics to drug rehab and therapy ‹ so inmates have a real alternative to jail. ³You can¹t force someone to get treatment if there aren¹t any services to refer them to,² Osher says. Promising Strategies Gather Dust: ŒIt¹s Hard to Get Anyone to Pay Attention Until It Happens Again.¹ The USA could dramatically improve the lives of the 10 million Americans with serious mental illness if it would make wider use of proven programs. ³We know what to do,² says Ron Honberg, national director of policy and legal affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness. ³We just don¹t do it.² Most communities ignore mental health until there¹s a crisis, such as the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., two years ago. Though people are initially horrified by such acts of violence, Americans forget all too quickly ­ and move on. ³Six months later, it fades off the front pages,² says Ron Manderscheid, executive director of the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors. ³It¹s hard to get anyone to pay attention until it happens again.² According to the National Institute of Mental Health, neglect of Americans with serious mental illness costs the nation $444 billion a year ‹ mostly from lost earnings ‹ and consigns millions to lives of suffering, addiction, homelessness or incarceration. It doesn¹t have to be this way. Studies show that supported housing , which provides a variety of services beyond low-cost apartments, not only reduces homelessness but also helps participants spend less time in shelters, hospitals and jail. Supported employment programs , which provide one-on-one help to people with serious mental illness, have been proved effective in 20 high-quality studies. The programs can triple the employment rate of people with serious mental illness from 20% to 60%. Yet only about 2% of people in the public mental health system receive either service, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency. Over the past seven months, USA TODAY has documented the consequences of the nation¹s failure to care about mental illness, examining the financial and human costs of apathy. USA TODAY is devoting the final articles of this series to the stories of people helped by innovative approaches that have the potential to improve millions of lives. This story shines a spotlight on programs aimed at helping people who suffered from a lack of treatment that led to repeated arrests and hospitalizations. The last piece in the series will examine what happens when people receive intensive help early in their lives, before mental illness has cost them their jobs, their families or their freedom. Round-The-Clock Support: Intensive Program Helps Those Too Sick to Fend for Themselves Jessica duCille sank into a dark depression at age 13 after her mother¹s death from cancer. By 20, she was being bullied by voices in her head, which drove her to thoughts of suicide. Eventually, the voices grew into shadows of her dead mother. The traditional approach to providing mental health care ‹ in which profoundly disabled people are expected to find their way to the services they need ‹ provided little help. DuCille suffers from a form of schizophrenia that includes periods of mania and depression, called schizoaffective disorder. She¹s been hospitalized dozens of times at facilities across her home state of North Carolina. Though hospitals can help stabilize patients, they often provide no more than a temporary respite, releasing people such as duCille back into the community with no guidance about where to go next. Like many women who suffer from serious mental illness, duCille fell into relationships that were physically and emotionally abusive. Twice, she was arrested for fighting her abuser. The cycle was finally broken two years ago when she was transferred to the psychiatric unit of a hospital and referred to an innovative program called Assertive Community Treatment, or ACT. The program aims to provide the sort of intensive, round-the-clock help available in hospitals, except to do it in communities where people live, says Patricia Rutkowski, who manages training programs for the ACT program in Madison, Wis. That¹s where the program began in the early 1970s. At the time she joined ACT, DuCille was hospitalized. A social worker met duCille at the hospital. Unlike traditional caseworkers, who often manage many clients by themselves, ACT teams rely on a variety of mental health professionals working together, including counselors, nurses, a psychiatrist and employment and housing specialists. Jessica duCille watches as workers help arrange furniture in a new apartment. DuCille was living with her father and afraid to leave her bedroom. There was no way she could have found her way to a clinic or social worker¹s office, let alone navigate a fragmented system to find help with food, housing and disability payments. That¹s where programs such as ACT come in. They serve people with the most serious impairments, who have trouble living on their own and often have a history of multiple hospitalizations, arrests, periods of homelessness or addiction, Rutkowski says. ACT teams address clients¹ immediate needs ­ food, clothing, shelter ­ before tackling anything else, says Tchernavia Montgomery, director of behavioral health for Carolinas HealthCare System. Clients such as duCille know they¹re no longer on their own. DuCille, 28, can call Montgomery or other team members 24 hours a day. If needed, a team member will come to her home, even several times a day. Having someone to call at 3 a.m. can keep people calm and stable ­ and out of emergency rooms. It also eases the burden on clients¹ families, Rutkowski says. The ACT model, pioneered four decades ago, has had great success in helping people who aren¹t helped by other programs, Honberg says. Without medication and support, 64% of people with schizophrenia are hospitalized again within a year, Montgomery says. In the Carolinas HealthCare System ACT program, only 4% return to the hospital in that time. DuCille¹s ACT program costs $1,700 a month, compared with the $20,000 cost of an eight-day psychiatric hospital stay, Montgomery says. ³You can do a pretty decent program for someone just by saving the cost of one hospital stay,² Rutkowski says. A 2004 study that focused on ACT programs for people with a history of arrests cut the number of hospital days by 85% and the number of jail days by 83%. Studies show ACT participants are more likely to have stable housing and have a better quality of life. Jessica duCille puts clean sheets on her new bed at her new apartment. The programs are cost-effective and may even save money. A Georgia ACT program, for example, saved more than $1 million in its first year, according to a 2004-05 study. In Wisconsin, 50% to 60% of ACT participants are working. That¹s three times higher than the national average for people with serious mental illness, Rutkowski says. ³There is a huge body of evidence showing that ACT works,² Honberg says. ³We don¹t need more research.² ACT was endorsed by a U.S. surgeon general¹s report in 1999. Although ACT programs are available in 40 states, only Washington, D.C., and six states ‹ Delaware, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Texas ‹ offer it statewide, Honberg says. Although many community programs say they follow the ACT model, many fall far short, offering services only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., rather than the ³wraparound² services that makes ACT distinct, Honberg says. ACT works in Wisconsin because local boards pay for all public mental health services out of the same budget, Rutkowski says. That gives them an incentive to keep people healthy and out of the hospital. Today, duCille sees a therapist and a doctor. Clients can attend weekly substance-abuse programs or classes that help manage stress, from group therapy to yoga to art therapy, which resonates with duCille, who expresses herself through her drawings. In the darkest times of her life, those drawings were black and white. When she¹s optimistic, color returns. DuCille is still looking for a job. Thanks to the ACT team, she and her 3-year-old daughter were able to leave her father¹s home last month, moving into an apartment of their own. DuCille hasn¹t been hospitalized since beginning the program two years ago. Although she remains fragile and soft-spoken, duCille says she feels hopeful about her future. ³There are times when I don¹t feel like doing anything,² duCille says. ³My daughter pushes me to take better care of myself.² Treatment, Not Jail: Innovative Judge Aims to Prevent Mentally Ill from Being Arrested, Incarcerated By age 40, Julie Reed had fallen as far as she could. She was addicted to crack. She sold her body and stole from her family and stores to support her habit. Her two daughters moved in with relatives because she was unable to take care of them. ³I was slowly killing myself,² says Reed, who has suffered from mental illness since she was a teenager. Julie Reed, a client specialist in the Miami-Dade County Jail Diversion Program, went through the program herself. Arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, Reed found herself in the Miami-Dade County jail, one cell away from a woman accused of murder. ³It was a life or death situation for me,² Reed says. ³Part of me wanted to give up. I had to decide, ŒAm I going to fight for my life or am I going to die?¹ ² Reed found help through an innovative program started by Judge Steven Leifman, which aims to provide treatment, rather than jail time, for people with mental illness or addiction. Although she could have left jail on a year¹s probation, Reed asked for help instead. She was transferred to a residential treatment facility for four months of drug rehabilitation. Thanks to Leifman¹s program, Reed got treatment for the bipolar disorder that had led her to ³self-medicate² with drugs. She reported to the court once a month for a year before completing the program. ³It¹s unfortunate that you have to go to jail to get any type of help,² says Reed, 45. ³I¹m so grateful to that man.² Giving Back: Former Addict Tries to Help Others Who Need a Second Chance When Reed completed the program, Leifman offered her a part-time job as a peer specialist. She works with other people who¹ve been recently arrested, guiding them through the process of getting help and changing their lives. ³I sit next to them in court,² Reed said. ³I try to give them hope.² Julie Reed, a client specialist in the Miami-Dade County Jail Diversion Program, helps Max Joseph, a client in the program, choose donated clothes. Reed was first hospitalized for cutting herself when she was 13 and cycled through hospitals and jails on charges of cocaine possession and driving under the influence. She hasn¹t been hospitalized or arrested since entering Leifman¹s program. She has worked to rebuild her relationship with her mother, her daughters ‹ ages 22 and 26 ‹ and her grandchildren, ages 4 and 7. ³I spend every day trying to pay it forward.² Leifman says Reed has lived up to his expectations. ³She really wanted to get better,² Leifman says. ³To let people with mental illness work, it¹s such great therapy. When they can give back, it¹s even better. When you are working and making a contribution, it gives them a reason to get up every day.² Her life isn¹t easy. Reed is in treatment for HIV, which she contracted from her first husband, an IV drug user who committed suicide. Neither of her daughters has HIV. Reed worries that she may never find a full-time job because of her felony conviction. Reed is going to school to earn a bachelor¹s degree. She takes nature photographs and dreams of opening her own photography business. She hikes. She kayaks. She appreciates the second chance she¹s been given. ³I would never have been referred over to a residential treatment center and have gotten my life put back together if I hadn¹t gotten arrested,² Reed says. Although she¹s not a religious person, she describes landing in Leifman¹s court as ³a divine intervention.² - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - From www.scpr.org/news/2014/07/15/45334/la-may-look-to-miami-for-jail-crowding-solutions/ : LA jail overcrowding: Is Miami a model for getting the mentally ill out of jails? Rina Palta The L.A. County Board of Supervisors Tuesday will look at suggestions for reducing the county's notoriously high number of mentally ill jail inmates ‹ and a lot of those ideas come from Florida. Over the past 14 years, Miami-Dade County has developed a reputation amongst mental health experts as the gold standard for programs that keep the county jails from becoming de facto mental institutions. Now that L.A. County is debating building a $1.7 billion jail mostly dedicated to treating its mentally ill offender population ‹ and faces federal intervention because of poor conditions for such offenders ‹ Miami's programs have been receiving a lot of attention from L.A. officials. € District Attorney Jackie Lacey, sent a team from her office to Miami-Dade to check out that county's programs. € In a recent report, the ACLU of Southern California also highlighted Miami's success with keeping the mentally ill out of jail, success that allowed the county to close down one of its jails last year, saving the county about $12 million annually. "It really started not because we're better than or smarter than anyone else, but because our needs are worse than anyone else," said Steve Leifman, the associate administrative judge of the Miami-Dade criminal division and chair of Florida's task force on substance abuse and mental health issues in the courts. Leifman said that while the national average for serious mental illness in the population is about 3 percent, in his county, it's 9.1 percent. Meanwhile, Florida's public mental health spending ranks near the bottom in the nation. (He estimates public health dollars provide enough care for about 1 percent of the population.) The county held a summit ‹ similar to the one held by Lacey in L.A. in May ‹ and commissioned a study from the University of Southern Florida to look at its large mentally ill jail population. Leifman said the results were striking. ³What they found is that there were 90 people ‹ primarily men, primarily diagnosed with schizophrenia ‹ who over a five-year period were arrested almost 2,200 times, spent almost 27,000 days in the Dade County jail. Spent almost 13,000 days at a psychiatric facility or emergency room. And cost taxpayers about $13 million in hard dollars," he said. To turn things around, the county has relied largely on federal aid, through Medicare, to fund treatment-based programs for its mentally ill misdemeanants and non-violent felons. It's also learned to leverage local resources well by collaborating with community partners, Leifman said. The main programs fall into two categories: pre-arrest and after-arrest. Pre-arrest program The pre-arrest program is borrowed from the Memphis Police Department, which developed a training plan for police officers, as well as specialized mental health units within police departments to respond to calls involving people in mental health crisis. Called "crisis intervention teams," they've dramatically cut down on arrests, Leifman said. In 2013, for instance, the city of Miami received about 5,000 mental-health-related calls, resulting in a total of five arrests. Post-arrest programs The post-arrest programs, which generally provide treatment as a jail alternative to mentally ill low-level offenders, have seen low recidivism rates, Leifman said. About 6 percent for the non-violent felon program and 20 percent for the misdemeanant program. Those numbers have led to copycat programs around the country. Fred Osher, Director of Health Systems and Services Policy at the Council of State Governments Justice Center, said nationwide now there are about 1,600 programs based on the CIT model ‹ including the LAPD's program, which is also nationally recognized. About 500 mental health courts exist nationwide as well, including one in L.A. ³What we see are points of light, and yet it¹s really hard to find places like Miami that have strung all these things together," Osher said. "It really requires attention to all the intercepts in order to make that difference going forward.² One of the key elements of Miami's program, Osher said, is that it's revolutionized the concept of mental health interventions in courts. Most local courts ‹ including L.A.'s mental health court ‹ generally focus on defendants who are deemed "incompetent to stand trial," meaning they're incapable of participating in their own defense. "That results in long waits for their transfer to state facilities," Osher said. "And then, at state facilities, long periods of time providing them basic information about core processing, and then they¹re often just let out for time served without anything good happening.² California's state hospitals are budgeted for 1,807 such beds in 2014, at an average operational cost of $194,000-$265,000 per year. L.A. County refers about 104 such patients to state hospitals per month, as of the most recent estimates from the state's Legislative Analyst's Office ‹ and those numbers are up from a year ago. Miami's court program focuses more on treating defendants for their eventual release ‹ not their day in court ‹ and therefore sees those defendants return to court less, Osher said. "That may be something L.A. will look to replicate," Osher said. That will largely depend on what county leaders agree is appropriate for Los Angeles over the coming months. L.A. is the largest county in the country, which raises concerns of size and scale about any potential new program. Such programs also take time to develop and implement--Miami's has been going for over a decade--and a lot of commitment from all areas of the criminal justice and community mental health system. L.A. leaders have already expressed concerns that there aren't enough community resources to treat those who would be diverted from L.A.'s jails. Leifman doesn't want L.A. to see his county's model as a social handout for offenders, but something that might work, in some form, in the court system here. ³This isn¹t about creating a new social program and patting the person on the head and telling them to do good," he said. ³If you want to fight crime, you have to figure out what¹s causing it. Then you need to put systems in place so that you can get better outcomes.²