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Morning Brief: LA Jail Mental Health Funding, Single-Use Plastics, And Cirque du Soleil

The inside of an L.A. courtroom. A female judge who appears to be white sits at the bench. To her left, a large screen shows images related to the case; they are difficult to make out.
Judge Karla Kerlin (center rear) speaks to a public defender (center foreground), representing a person enrolled in ODR Housing.
(Emily Elena Dugdale
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Good morning, L.A. It’s April 28.

For years, activists in L.A. and elsewhere have promoted the need to provide health care and support to people who commit crimes while experiencing mental health crises, rather than sending them to jail. 

Well, whether you’ve heard of it or not, L.A. County has just such a program in place already: the Office of Diversion and Reentry helps thousands of people with mental health challenges who otherwise would end up incarcerated. 

My colleague Emily Elena Dugdale reports that ODR Housing, as it's known, has been a massive success — more than 3,700 people with serious mental health disorders, physical illnesses and/or substance abuse issues were diverted from jail thanks to the program. A study released by the RAND Corporation in 2019 found that 90% of people surveyed who were enrolled in ODR Housing had stable housing after six months, 74% after 12 months.

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The vast majority also had no new felony convictions.

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And yet, next year’s proposed county budget sets aside no new funding for the program. That means regardless of how much it’s helped clients, new people won’t be afforded the same opportunities.

For some who work to support individuals in the jail system, the decision is inexcusable.

“This is going beyond negligence at this point,” said Ivette Alé-Ferlito with Dignity and Power Now. “This is intentional harm to people with mental health needs.”

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A., and stay safe out there.

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Before You Go ... Cirque du Soleil Has A Semi-Permanent Home In LA

The cast of Cirque du Soleil's Ovo pose on stage, with a large yellow-green egg being held up by a number of them, while others represent various bugs.
Cirque performers with the egg, or Ovo, they worship.
(Courtesy Cirque du Soleil)
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For the next five years, Cirque du Soleil will be a mainstay in L.A. The gravity-defying troupe recently began a residency with L.A. Live that will include annual stops at the Microsoft Theater, the first of which will be a revamped version of Cirque's Ovo.

My colleague Mike Roe talked to performers about how they got their start in the show — and how they stayed spry enough to leap tall buildings in a single bound when COVID-19 shut everything down.

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