This week we celebrated Gideon’s Week, a.k.a. Public Defense Week. A year ago, we were suddenly faced with a global pandemic and weren’t able to celebrate the good work of the Public Defender’s office and those who help us help our clients. So this year, we utilized the week for some introspection and training but also to acknowledge the good work that has been going on despite a pandemic. We are blessed to have the support and assistance of many different parts of the community, from county departments, like Behavioral Health and Social Services, to community-based organizations like Hospitality House, the HOME Team, Spirit Center, Common Goals, the Crisis Intervention Unit and Granite Wellness. We work together to help our clients and to better the community.
For the last 18 months, we have had a personal services coordinator embedded by Behavioral Health in the Public Defender’s office to assist in helping our clients. To say that she has created a difference for our clients is an understatement. As of the end of October, 2020, when we hit the 1 year mark of this program, she had worked intensively with 15 Public Defender clients. 14 of those clients had experienced a drop in their criminal system involvement since they began working with her. We are excited to see her help even more clients and change even more lives. We appreciate this collaboration with Behavioral Health and are hopeful that we will find more opportunities to work together to positively impact the lives of those who find themselves in the criminal system.
We have been participating with a collaboration of county departments to analyze and address mental health in the criminal system. Behavioral Health, The Sheriff, Probation and The District Attorney have joined with us to identify gaps and analyze where we can fill those gaps. We have had quarterly community meetings to bring the community into our discussions and to see what ideas they have and what we’ve missed. It has been hard work and we have taken a deep dive into the minutia of different processes in order to see what is working, what isn't working, what we can change, and what we have no control over. It is important to note that these types of collaborations are unusual in the criminal system and don’t happen in all jurisdictions. However, here in Nevada County we decided it was important to set aside our differences and egos and bring our creative juices to the table in order to explore challenging issues and find possible solutions that would help our clients and the community.
Despite all the challenges of the last year, the Public Defender’s office stayed open and continued to represent some of the most vulnerable citizens in our community. We are proud to work here and grateful for the support of the community in what we do. We look forward to the coming year and all it has to offer.