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OC Mental Health Jail Expansion Could Start Soon

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Today is the deadline for contruction companies to bid for the job of adding mental health beds to an Orange County jail that has been shut down for more than seven months already.

In July 2019, the James A. Musick Facility in Irvine closed -- temporarily -- to allow for a remodel accommodating nearly 900 mental health beds.

But construction hasn’t started yet. The O.C. Board of Supervisors first has to vote on which company will handle the construction. The remodel isprojected to cost $167 million — money that came from the state.

O.C. community organizers and activists are protesting the jail expansion. Daisy Ramirez, a jail reform advocate with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said:

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“There has been a huge investment into the Sheriff’s Department and very little funding into health care services that provide community-based resources.”

Ramirex said the O.C. Sheriff's Department has historically failed to provide adequate mental health care to inmates. She wants to see community-based treatment instead of more jail beds.

But the rising number of inmates with mental illness in the jails has the Sheriff's Department concerned.

“We have a shared interest in rehabilitating inmates with mental health challenges and substance use disorders to be stable and sober, with the ultimate goal of having them not return to jail,” Sheriff-Coroner Don Barnes said in a statement.

Last August, L.A. County lawmakers killed a $2.2 billion contract to build a mental health facility for inmates. Jail reform advocates led the campaign to cancel the construction.