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Behavioral Health Justice Center (BHJC)

The Concept Paper

In 2016, District Attorney Gascón and four experts in the field of mental health released a concept paper titled, “Justice That Heals: Promoting Behavioral Health, Safeguarding the Public, and Ending Our Overreliance on Jails.” proposing the development of a new Behavioral Health Justice Center (BHJC).

The proposed BHJC is a collaborative, independently administered, interagency center designed to 1) bridge the current divide between the criminal justice system and community-based treatment programs for mentally ill individuals, and 2) ensure diversion at the earliest possible opportunity.


Research shows that incarcerating people with mental illness undermines longterm community safety by increasing recidivism. The concept paper for BHJC outlines a series of recommendations to create a continuum of mental health care services in a centralized service center. It would provide, for the first time, a purposeful, coordinated system of care with different levels of service and appropriate treatment options for individuals with mental illness in the justice system.

The co-location of these services will enhance public safety by promoting a seamless system of care for individuals with mental illness to interrupt the cycle of homelessness, addiction, and criminal activity.

4 Tiers of BHJC

The BHJC would have four tiers of service and treatment to address four distinct levels of need:

Level 1: Emergency Mental Health Reception Center and Respite Beds. A 24-hour venue for police to bring individuals experiencing a mental health episode for an initial mental health assessment.

Level 2: Short-term (2-3 week) Transitional Housing and on-site residential treatment.

Level 3: Long-term Residential Dual Diagnosis Treatment. Longer-term intensive residential psychiatric care and substance abuse treatment in an unlocked setting.

Level 4: Secure Inpatient Transitional Care Unit. Short-term, voluntary inpatient treatment for persons with mental illness transitioning to community-based residential treatment programs.