FEBRUARY 17, 2020

LOS ANGELES 鈥 Today, George Gasc贸n’s campaign for District Attorney released a policy paper聽proposing major reforms to聽Los Angeles County鈥檚 approach to behavioral health and its nexus to homelessness. Such reforms would ensure LA’s approach is trauma-informed and evidence-based.

“The current District Attorney’s approach to those experiencing mental illness and substance abuse challenges has聽severely backfired and has exacerbated LA’s聽homelessness crisis,” said former District Attorney and Assistant Chief of the LAPD, George Gasc贸n. “The traditional law and order approach relies on the false premise that punishment somehow treats the illness that is addiction.聽 Our response has been emotional when we needed to be聽clinical, as incarcerating those with behavioral health challenges is not only inhumane, it does nothing to ‘fix’聽deeper public health problems such as substance abuse or mental healthdisorders which are frequent drivers of contact with the criminal justice system.聽 You can鈥檛 cure cancer with a hammer, just like you can鈥檛 treat mental illness with a concrete box.”

Gasc贸n pledges to work with other elected leaders, providers along the Continuum of Care, community groups and others to address the region鈥檚 behavioral health crisis.聽 These policies and guidelines were drafted with assistance from Gasc贸n’s policy committee.聽 The issues covered聽are many, but the proposed policies and guidelines recommended include:

  • Enacting policies to prevent homelessness and keep people in their homes聽by intervening before families are forced to leave their existing homes.
  • Diverting individuals from the earliest contact with law enforcement by dramatically expanding Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD).
  • Establishing a system of Behavioral Health Justice Centers as an alternative to traditional criminal justice interventions.
  • Expand the Los Angeles County Homeless Court Program and more fully integrate the District Attorney鈥檚 Office in a leadership role in the program.
  • Establishing a Homelessness Advisory Board.
  • Implement a CONNECTion To Services Program (the CONNECT Program), that support diversion to services and prioritize alternatives to enforcement, citation, or arrest for low-level quality of life crimes or life-sustaining activities.
  • Adequately train attorneys on the American Bar Association Criminal Justice and Mental Health Standards.

Click here to read the full report.


George Gasc贸n grew up in Los Angeles after his family immigrated from Cuba. 聽An army veteran, Gasc贸n served as a Los Angeles Police Department Officer for 30 years, rising to the rank of Assistant Chief of Operations. In 2006 he became Chief of Police in Mesa, Arizona, where he stood up to the hateful and anti-immigrant policies of then Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. 聽In 2009, then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Gasc贸n Chief of Police. 聽Newsom turned to Gasc贸n again in 2011 when he tapped him to be District Attorney to fill the seat vacated by an outoing Kamala Harris who had been elected Attorney General. During his tenure Gasc贸n implemented reforms that are being duplicated across the country while overseeing violent crime and homicides drop to rates not seen in 50 years. 聽After being elected to two terms, Gasc贸n returned to Los Angeles to care for his elderly mother and to be closer to his two daughters and grandchildren in Long Beach. 聽Gasc贸n is married to Fabiola Kramsky, a three-time Emmy Award winning journalist and recipient of the 鈥淧remio Nacional de Periodismo,鈥 the highest recognition given to journalists in Mexico.