BEST Benefits People Exiting Criminal Justice System

Coming in Spring 2016, the BOSS Benefits & Entitlements Specialist Team (BEST) will implement a county-backed pilot program to restore SSI benefits for people leaving Santa Rita Jail. With five years and hundreds of GA recipients already served, BEST has demonstrated its skill in meeting people where they’re at in the community. From clinics to campsites, BEST staff have honed their outreach practices and are now ready to tackle a new challenge.
Starting in March, BEST staff will focus exclusively on getting SSI benefits reinstated for people immediately after they leave county jail. SSI benefit payments are suspended for people in custody, but they can be reinstated in the month after release. In theory, the process of reinstating SSI benefits can be very fast. Unfortunately, mental health concerns and a lack of resources can easily prevent someone from being able to navigate the situation effectively.
That’s where BEST will intervene — to provide pre-release access to a benefits advocate, transportation resources, and personalized advocacy to ensure that all people referred will have the maximum opportunity to get their basic income and housing needs met.
By intervening at a crucial time following release, our program will explore and demonstrate the impact of stable income on recidivism rates, housing, and health care. We are pleased to continue working closely with Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services (BHCS), and also grow our connection with the Criminal Justice Mental Health (CJMH) program at Santa Rita Jail. BEST will also happily continue to collaborate with Homeless Action Center and Bay Area Legal Aid.