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FamiliesACT! sprang out of a cluster of tragic deaths among young dually diagnosed adults in Santa Barbara in the winter of 2005-06. Ten mothers came together and founded FamiliesACT! in 2006 to address the whole range of injustices inherent in current policies that have led to the neglect as well as the criminalization of a significant portion of our society and the erosion of constitutional rights under the guise of “public safety.”

FamiliesACT! took shape as a grassroots community force for change with unrelenting persistence to shape the narrative and change the language of community discourse. 

Our initiatives have emerged from the collective pain and the wisdom of the more than sixty mothers who have attended our monthly support/action meetings, and those who sit on our board.


We are pressing for fundamental change in both our mental health and criminal justice systems for a shift from a punitive to a rehabilitative approach. We know that people with a mood or thought disorder who self-medicate must be offered compassionate and effective treatment as an alternative and/or an adjunct to incarceration.

FamiliesACT! Timeline


~ FamiliesACT! was founded


~ Op-ed "The Revolving Door" authored by FamiliesACT! appeared in Santa Barbara Independent

Held a Town Hall Meeting with standing room only attendance

~ Produces 16 minute documentary "Voices for Change" about the dually diagnosed

~ Holds open forum to heighten awareness of the death of our children in the streets because of mental illness and substance abuse

~ First appeared and spoke before the Board of Supervisors (BOS) and continues to do so through the years


~ The Santa Barbara Task Force on Co-Occurring Disorders convened 


~ The Santa Barbara Task Force Report published its findings in response to "The Revolving Door" op-ed

~ The first of several press conferences to follow took place


~ Multiple press conferences continued focusing on the causes of jail overcrowding highlighting the need for realistic alternatives

~ Pros and Cons of Measure S Forum (build of new jail in Santa Barbara County)


~ Started advocacy group meetings

~ Survival Santa Barbara Forum on the "Structural Issues at the Root of Homelessness: Beyond Socks and Blankets"


~ Continued outreach begins to change the language of community discourse

~ Goes before the BOS to make changes in the county's Alcohol, Drugs, and Mental Health Services (ADMHS)

~ Supervisor Salud Carbajal addresses the need for change in ADMHS

~ Provided the opportunity for dozens of family members to help each other navigate a disjointed patchwork of services to help their loved ones recover their health


~ Created the HEART committee


~ First Film Night presenting "The House I Live In" to community audience to initiate conversations about the high number of mentally ill in our homeless and jail populations


~ Demands change based on the Tri-West Report on the state of the county's ADMHS

~ Second Film Night presenting the film "The Criminalization of the Mentally Ill"

~ Begins ongoing advocacy services for families in negotiating treatment options instead of jail

~ Helped our County realize that it needed hundreds more treatment beds and supportive housing units for people experiencing mental illness


Groundbreaking Mental Health Report releasing details showing a shortfall of 300 treatment beds

~ 10 year anniversary of FamiliesACT!

Told our stories to the County to illustrate why they should fund a Laura's Law pilot project to reach out to the most severely ill people on our streets and in our community

~ Facilitated the removal of Corizon improving the health care at the jail

~ Established jail oversight committee corrections committee

~ Persuaded Santa Barbara County to create a new Grievance Coordinator position to oversee the unmet health related needs of inmates in our jail and inspired Sheriff Brown to create a stakeholder committee to help improve jail medical and mental health services


~ Laura's Law collaboration with NAMI for successful adoption by Santa Barbara county 

~ Jail Table started on weekends to interface with visitors at the Santa Barbara Jail

which enabled friends and families who are visiting their loved ones in jail to report health related concerns on their behalf at our outdoor table


~ Stepping Up Initiative begins and focuses on county-wide effort to divert the mentally ill from jail to treatment

~Helped get funding to train first responders in Crisis Intervention and create co-response team consisting of a Sheriff's Deputy and a mental health clinician working side by side to gain the trust of people at risk

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