Among the new items in a final $36 billion budget approved Tuesday by Los Angeles County supervisors was what one board member called “unprecedented investments” in treatment and diversion.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl highlighted the additional spending to realize the goal of “treatment first, jail last.”

The money came from funds previously earmarked for a new jail treatment center to replace the Men’s Central Jail. The contract for that facility was canceled by the board in August under pressure by social justice advocates who said the treatment center would be a jail masquerading as a hospital and too massive to provide quality treatment.

Kuehl called the new funding “a foundational investment in our new `treatment first, jail last’ approach for county residents who often repeatedly end up in jail for lack of mental health or substance use treatment.”

It includes $20 million to support 2,200 permanent supportive housing beds operated by the county’s Office of Diversion and Reentry. The board also approved $53 million in funding to expand support for diversion, and another $20 for new treatment beds — in custody or in the community — for individuals with serious mental health issues or significant health needs.

“If a virtual groundbreaking for much-needed services and treatment could be held, we’d be putting a shovel in the ground today,” Kuehl said. “Today we begin to build a new and different future of health and justice for all county residents.”

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