OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — Alameda County’s new district attorney said she is trying a different approach to the county’s “mental health crisis” by finding new pathways for families who have loved ones suffering from mental illness.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office announced the creation of the District Attorney’s Mental Health Commission, a volunteer group of 26 parents and community activists.

The new commission will help improve how the District Attorney’s Office responds to residents with mental health challenges who are impacted by the criminal justice system.

District Attorney Pamela Price said the new commission is part of her vision for change.

“We want to treat people suffering with mental health issues with the care and responsible justice they deserve,” Price said. “The creation of this commission is just the beginning in effecting change. This is a step in the right direction in providing alternatives to mass incarceration.”

The commission met for the first time on Thursday.

“The DA’s Mental Health Commission is an opportunity for voices to be heard that have gone
unheard. Bringing these different perspectives together will help shape how the office handles cases where mental illness is a factor,” Price’s office wrote.

Recently, DA Price participated in a community gathering to support the families of Dilma Franks-Spruill and Wilbert Winchester, along with Mayor Sheng Thao and mental health advocates.

Franks-Spruill was stabbed to death on International Boulevard in Oakland last month.

Franks-Spruill’s death “has become a clarion call for dramatic improvement in our response to the issue of mental illness in our community,” according to Price’s office.

“We need to find a way to get our loved ones care — not cages,” said Kimberly Graves, a member of Alameda County’s Families Advocating for the Seriously Mentally Ill. “Far too often the only time our family members get treatment is with a criminal sentence.”