On July 30, 2020, GBDH, along with Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and Disability Rights California (DRC), filed a lawsuit against Alameda County for unnecessarily and illegally segregating people with mental health disabilities in psychiatric institutions instead of providing them with services they need to live in the community.
Based on its investigation, DRC found that Alameda County institutionalizes people at a rate more than three-and-a-half times California’s statewide average. Without access to adequate community-based services, hundreds of Alameda County residents have been institutionalized more than 10 times in the last three years alone. DRC’s investigation also revealed significant racial disparities in Alameda County’s system for serving people with serious mental health disabilities. Specifically, Black residents make up 11% of Alameda County’s population, yet of the hundreds of people Alameda County psychiatrically institutionalized 10 or more times since 2018, 55% are Black.
The lawsuit alleges that Alameda County must provide access to intensive community services such as Full-Service Partnerships, assertive community treatment, intensive case management, supported housing and employment, and peer support services, which are highly effective in enabling people with mental health disabilities to avoid unnecessary institutionalization.
On November 7, 2023, the Parties, along with the U.S. Department of Justice, announced that they reached a comprehensive settlement that strengthens and expands the County’s community-based behavioral health services for people with serious mental health disabilities, with the goal of preventing unnecessary psychiatric institutionalization and incarceration. Highlights of the settlement include expanding the number and reach of mobile crisis teams and the intensive mental-health and case-management program called “Full-Service Partnerships,” as reasonable and appropriate; expanding and deepening linkages to services; enhancing discharge planning and County coordination with community-based organizations for people in John George Psychiatric Hospital, Santa Rita Jail, Villa Fairmont Mental Health Rehabilitation Center, Gladman Mental Health Rehabilitation Center, and Morton Bakar Center; expanding peer respite and/or crisis residential beds; and expanding culturally responsive and affirming behavioral health services, including through community-based and peer-run organizations, to help reduce behavioral health disparities across racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic groups. The settlement agreement is the result of over two years of negotiations between the County, the U.S. Department of Justice, and DRC, as well as its co-counsel, Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and the Law Office of Aaron J. Fischer.