Senator Umberg’s Legislation to Provide Mental Health Services for Inmates Heads to Key Fiscal Committee

August 8, 2019

Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana) authored Senate Bill 665 (SB665) to assist individuals in county jails by providing better access to mental health services and treatments. The bipartisan legislation is sponsored by the Orange County Board of Supervisors, has the support of Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, and Richard Sanchez, Director of the OC Health Care Agency. SB 665 was recently heard in the Senate Health Committee, and is heard next in Senate Appropriations Committee, where it is expected to pass by unanimous vote on August 12. This bill would provide a major, positive change in outcomes for all of our California communities.

“This is an investment to ensure that those who are going to be released from our county jails have the mental health treatment they may require. With this, the odds of recidivism decrease dramatically,” said Senator Tom Umberg. “States with the least access to mental health services have the highest recidivism rates, which proves this is the most cost-effective place to provide treatment to individuals before they reenter the community.”

“We know that in a mental health crisis situation people are more likely to encounter police than get mental health services. As a result, our county jails end up as the de facto mental health hospital. I have been working with the county’s criminal justice system on integrating services across departments and the need for mental health services in our jails is profound. SB 665 is a funding solution to providing much needed mental health services,” said Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do.

In Orange County, approximately 30% of the incarcerated population have a mental health issue. With the increasing number of those incarcerated who are suffering from a mental health issue and the limited funding sources for treatment, it is critical to explore the flexibility of existing mental health funding sources. In fact, this past February, in a landmark move, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to replace the Men’s Central Jail with a mental health hospital for inmates.

“Addressing the mental health crisis in our nation’s jail system is a top priority.  SB 665 ensures we have the necessary resources to implement treatment strategies that will result in greater stability for mentally ill inmates post-custody and reduce the likelihood of new criminal offenses,” said Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes.

“Treatment works, but we have to be able to meet people where they are. SB 665 will help clarify the MHSA and make it possible for counties to enhance mental health treatment in the jail system. Here in Orange County, that could include expanded group therapy options, individual counseling, medication management, dedicated interaction with professionals and peer mentors trained in behavioral health, and more. Connecting inmates to better care and linking them to programs and services post-custody can only make their re-entry into our communities more successful,” said Richard Sanchez, Director of the OC Health Care Agency.

Under Prop 63, which California voters passed in 2004, Mental Health Services Funds are not allowed to be spent in State Prisons. This resulted in a situation where certain populations that could use these funds the most, end up being restricted from receiving the programs and treatments that they really need. SB 665 will remedy this situation by using Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) funds to pay for services such as prevention, early intervention, crisis management, and administering certain medications when necessary to persons incarcerated in county jails, except for those convicted of a felony.


Senator Thomas J. Umberg represents the 34th Senate District, which includes the cities of Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Long Beach, Los Alamitos, Midway City, Orange, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, and Westminster. Umberg is a retired U.S. Army Colonel, former federal prosecutor, and small businessman. He and his wife, Brigadier General Robin Umberg, USA (ret.), live in Orange County.