The City of San Diego is set to begin a new program offering a different approach to handling those with chronic misdemeanor offenses who may suffer mental illness or substance abuse.
The San Diego Misdemeanants At-Risk Track (SMART) is aimed at people who repeatedly face misdemeanor charges, who may be homeless or in need of drug rehabilitation or psychiatric treatment.
An eligible participant has committed one or more drug offenses in the last two years and has been arrested at least twice in the past six months for a quality-of-life offense, according to the program's website.
“Because each individual can have a different story, we need a tailored treatment to best intervene and to help each individual person,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
The pilot program offers more than one night in a bed. With participation from the defendant, the program can provide up to two years of housing.
“Our part is to provide a consistency of a bed. Their part is to provide participation in treatment,” said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.
The program will roll out with 10 beds, just a small number of participants. If it proves successful, the program will be expanded.
City Attorney-elect Mara Elliott said the City of San Diego and San Diego County are seeking an initial grant of $3 million over three years to offer mental health and drug treatment programs.
Participants will get needed counseling, substance abuse and mental health services with a Deputy City Attorney assigned to Neighborhood Prosecution and Collaborative Courts will serve as case manager overseeing the housing and treatment.
“There are no real programs at the misdemeanor level that address the problems these clients have,” said Michael Ruiz, Supervising Attorney with the Public Defender’s Office. “This is really the smartest way to deal with it.”
The program launched with the help of the City Attorney's Office, the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, the Office of the Public Defender, Family Health Centers of San Diego, the ACLU, and the housing provider - the San Diego Second Chance Program under a contract administered by the San Diego Housing Commission.