El Dorado County, California, stretches some 80 miles from the Sacramento suburbs, in the west, to resplendent Lake Tahoe on the Nevada border. It’s the county where gold was discovered in 1848, at Sutter’s Mill, launching the California Gold Rush. Hence the name: El Dorado.
The county’s largest city is South Lake Tahoe, on the lake’s southern shore, which abuts Nevada. It’s a short drive to Carson City. This is where Jackie Noren, captain of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, is hoping to set up a transitional housing facility, to assist South Lake Tahoe’s transient and homeless populations, and individuals there who have mental disorders.
“We have two residential facilities in the county seat (Placerville),” said Noren, “but none in the basin area, where there’s a large transient population.”
By developing plans for the housing facility in South Lake Tahoe, Noren said, “we’re targeting mentally ill people involved in the justice system . . . to help reduce recidivism,” and also to help them “have access to and maintain treatment, gain employment, and transition to independence.”
Noren has also been instrumental in developing El Dorado’s crisis intervention training (CIT), which was initiated after several fatal shootings in 2008 involving law enforcement officers and individuals experiencing mental health crises.Such violent incidents were becoming more prevalent at that time, said Noren. “We decided we needed our deputies to understand these situations when they encountered them, and we needed to start some kind of CIT.”
Such violent incidents were becoming more prevalent at that time, said Noren. “We decided we needed our deputies to understand these situations when they encountered them, and we needed to start some kind of CIT.”
Initially, El Dorado’s CIT was an 8-hour course taken by all law enforcement officers, but that approach wasn’t effective, as the number of violent incidents involving people with mental health issues continued to rise. So in 2011, the Sheriff’s Office restructured its CIT program, which now actively recruits promising candidates and sends them to a full 40-hour CIT offered in neighboring counties. Currently, El Dorado has 43 employees who are fully schooled in CIT, including sergeants, deputies, dispatchers, and a lieutenant.
“The collaboration between different agencies has grown so strong,” said Noren. “We’ve been able to really open the eyes of a lot of people, I think, correctional officers and DAs included, who might’ve been a little dubious.”