Yolo County’s new mental health diversion court addresses treatment of mental health issues and alcohol or other drug addictions. The program celebrated its first two graduates on March 15, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The project started in February 2022 with a plan to divert people suffering from addiction away from incarceration without sufficient treatment.
Joseph and Adrian Rodríguez, unrelated, were the first to graduate from this court-based program.
The program focuses on incarcerated people who do not qualify for other court intervention programs and whose main reason for their crimes stems from mental health or drug issues.
The Yolo County district attorney and public defenders offices, along with county’s probation department, proposed funding the program to the Board of Supervisors.
Joseph Rodriguez’s attorney Rich Landsburgh said, “This is an angry young man,” Landsburgh had met Joseph 16 years ago and added, “This program saved his life.”
Joseph had started drinking alcohol when he was eight years old and it was a component in his many court dates and jail sentences until his graduation from the program.
Adrian Rodriguez’s mother told the court she is thankful that her son finally succeeded in his fight to stay sober.
The program has strict guidelines for enrollees. First, they must have no positive alcohol or other drug test results for 200 days and no unexcused absences for 180 days.
They are also encouraged to seek aftercare, restorative justice programs and job training classes, and they must complete an essay as a part of their graduation requirements.
Yolo County is working to expand the program to accommodate up to 40 people following its debut success.
Joseph Rodriguez was successful in outpatient treatment, never missing sessions and working closely with his counselor.
Adrian Rodriguez proved a talented writer. He focuses on staying sober for himself and his son.
At the ceremony he said, “I want to apologize publicly to my mom. Sorry, it took this long. Mom always did the most she could, but I didn’t want to do it.”
This changed on his graduation day, “I’ve got to do this,” he said.