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Teresa Pemberton, Justice Services Division Manger

Health Agency Launches New Justice Services Division

Author: Behavioral Health Department
Date: 2/20/2020 12:30:46 PM

The County of San Luis Obispo’s Behavioral Health Department's new Division will provide diversion and treatment programs to those in the criminal justice system.


The County of San Luis Obispo’s Behavioral Health Department has added a new Justice Services Division. The division, made up of clinicians, specialists, and criminal justice professionals, focuses on mental health and substance use disorders and provides a wide range of diversion and treatment programs for individuals in the court system with serious mental illness and addiction.

The Justice Services Division is focused on providing co-occurring treatment for individuals who are at risk of being incarcerated or who have already entered the criminal justice system. The division is committed to making a difference and supports the ‘Stepping Up Initiative’, which is a national initiative to reduce the number of people in jail who have mental illness. 

“The goal is to help clients learn their symptoms and their mental health disorder,” says Division Manger Teresa Pemberton. “We want them to be their own mental health advocate, to stay on their medications, get into a supportive living situation and create a community of support so they do not fall back into hard times.”

People who have serious mental illnesses stay in jail longer and are at higher risk of returning to incarceration. By by providing treatment services and improving coordination between criminal justice, mental health, substance use treatment and other community agencies the Justice Services Division hopes to put an end to the cycle.

Current programs within the Justice Service Division include the Behavioral Health Treatment and Mental Health Diversion Courts, collaborations with the Sheriff’s Department to provide community action teams (CAT) and crisis intervention training (CIT). CIT helps officers better understand mental health and develop skills when responding to calls. The Division also partners with Transitions-Mental Health Association to provide Forensic Reentry Services to inmates with mental health, offering intensive services as they return to the community after incarceration.

For more information or details please visit www.slocounty.ca.gov/bh and/or contact Teresa Pemberton, Justice Services Division Manager, (805) 781-4997; [email protected].