A press conference was held on August 13th to highlight the securing of $10 million for the Tribal Youth Diversion Program in the 2019-2020 California state budget. This marks an increase of nearly $9 million from the previous year’s funding.
Following the press conference, Assemblyman James C. Ramos who represents Highland, chaired the inaugural hearing of the Assembly Select Committee on Native American Affairs. The hearing discussed the five-year strategic plan for the California Native American Heritage Commission, the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and the status of Tribal Youth Diversion Programs. This is the first such select committee hearing related to Native Americans in nearly a decade.
“Today’s Native American youth have inherited a legacy of historical trauma caused by loss of home, land, culture, visibility, and language as the result of centuries of eradication and assimilation-based policies. Bringing resources to Tribes in our state to expand programs informed by the weight of history and their current lived experience will strengthen our tribal communities and will be an important step in improving outcomes for all Native American youth,” said Ramos.
Joining Ramos at the press conference was Chief Judge of the Intertribal Court of Southern California and member of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, Devon Lee Lomayseva to talk about her professional experience as a tribal court judge for 12 tribes, the current diversion programs in place, and planned future programs for tribal youth. Her daughter, Temyal Lomayesva, also spoke on her experience as a Native youth and how these programs have made an impact on her peers.
The Tribal Youth Diversion Grant program is funding set aside for diversion programs that specifically cater to Native American youth. The programs use trauma-informed, community-based, and health-based interventions to address the needs of tribal communities that experience high rates or arrest, suicide, alcohol and substance abuse, or average high school graduation rates that are lower than 75 percent.
The funding is allocated within the Youth Reinvestment Grant program, which directs money to the local level to divert low-level offenders from initial contact with the juvenile justice system. Communities with high juvenile arrest rates, or experience high rates of racial disproportionality within those arrests are targeted with grant funding. Funding for such diversion programs include academic and vocational education services, mentoring, behavioral health services, mental health services, and alternative-sanction programs.