The Public Defender’s Office will receive an annual $80,000 grant from the Metta Fund for two years to hire a social worker who will provide additional support for Public Defender clients with major mental illness in finding and maintaining employment and eliminating barriers to employment. According to Deputy Public Defender Jennifer Johnson, “meaningful work is the key to helping clients with serious mental illness regain their lives. It has an unparalleled ability to restore confidence and to give our clients a sense of responsibility and purpose. The result is a safer community because our clients are able to break the cycle of incarceration, homelessness, and hospitalization that has held them hostage.”
Public Defender Jeff Adachi said that an employment component for mentally ill clients made sense. “This program will allow individuals to seek, obtain and qualify for employment opportunities that will lead to the individual’s independence and sustainability.” The grant will allow the office to assist over 100 people in the next two years and requires that the Public Defender’s office work in collaboration with community mental health providers, Jail Psychiatric Services, and Behavioral Health Court.
The goal of Behavioral Health Court is to redirect clients with mental illness from the criminal justice system into the community mental health system. Many clients in the jail would not be incarcerated if they had the ability to negotiate the complicated web of social services to secure quality mental health treatment.
The Metta Fund is a private foundation dedicated to improving health in the City and County of San Francisco. Metta Fund promotes health by focusing in four areas: providing access to health care; supporting healthy behaviors; violence prevention; and, improving the quality of care.