About Us - COMIO

COMIO – building bridges between criminal justice and behavioral health systems to prevent incarceration.
We are a 12-Member appointed council, chaired by the Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Members are a mix of local experts from both criminal justice and behavioral health systems.
Through an annual legislative report and monthly activities, COMIO investigates, identifies, and promotes cost-effective strategies for youth and adults with mental health needs that:
  • Prevent criminal involvement (initial and recidivism).
  • Improve behavioral health services.
  • Identify incentives to encourage state and local criminal justice, juvenile justice, and mental health programs to adopt approaches that work.
The Council is focused on identifying and promoting integrated, cost-effective strategies to:
  • Divert persons with mental health needs from the criminal justice system;
  • Improve training for encounters with persons with mental illness; and to
  • Prevent youth with mental health needs from becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.
Each year, an estimated 2 million people with serious mental illnesses are admitted to jails nationally. Almost 3/4 of these adults also have drug and alcohol use problems. Once incarcerated, these individuals stay longer in jail and upon release are at a higher risk of returning to incarceration than those without these illnesses. Our state institutions managed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation mirror similar conditions and the population with mental health needs, particularly serious ones, is growing.

COMIO is working to diminish the stigma that justice-involved individuals with mental illness face, which results in scarcely allocated resources and opportunities to reduce incarceration as a default for unavailable services and supports.
A true shift in the paradigm between criminal justice and mental health will embody an effective jail diversion system that fosters an ongoing and successful exchange of information among courts, criminal justice agencies, mental health professionals, government and non-government organizations to achieve a substantial positive change in the way individuals with mental illness are treated in our communities.
The leaders in criminal justice and mental health participating in this effort strive to end the criminalization of individuals with mental illness by supporting proven strategies that promote early intervention, access to effective treatments, a planned re-entry and the preservation of public safety.
Secretary Kernan served as CDCR Undersecretary for Operations from March to December 2015. He was owner at Kernan Consulting from 2011 to 2015. He served as Undersecretary for Operations at CDCR from 2008 to 2011. He was Chief Deputy Secretary of Adult Operations from 2007 to 2008 and Deputy Director of Adult Institutions from 2006 to 2007. He served as Warden at California State Prison, Sacramento, from 2004 to 2006 and Warden at Mule Creek State Prison from 2003 to 2004, where he also served as a Chief Deputy Warden from 2001 to 2003 and as a Correctional Administrator from 2000 to 2001. He served as a Correctional Captain from 1991 to 2000, as a Correctional Lieutenant from 1987 to 1991, an Associate Budget Analyst from 1986 to 1987, a Correctional Sergeant from 1985 to 1986 and a Correctional Officer from 1983 to 1985. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1979 to 1982.
Manuel J. Jimenez Jr., MA, MFT, is the Behavioral Health Director for Alameda County, and has worked in the mental health field for 22 years. Mr. Jimenez received the honor of being appointed the first chair of the Latino Affairs Commission for the City of South Lake Tahoe. In 1999, the Clinton administration appointed him to the Lake Tahoe Federal Advisory Committee. Mr. Jimenez’s current appointments include the Governing Board of the County Behavioral Health Director’s Association of California, the Statewide Mental Health & Spirituality Initiative Committee, State Cultural Competency Advisory Committee. Mr. Jimenez was appointed to COMIO by Governor Jerry Brown in 2012.
Pamela Ahlin has served as chief deputy director of the Department of State Hospitals since 2014 and was a deputy director from 2012 to 2014. Ahlin was executive director at Coalinga State Hospital from 2008 to 2012, where she was a hospital administrator from 2005 to 2007. She served as a staff services manager at Wasco State Prison from 2001 to 2005 and was an associate governmental program analyst at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran from 1997 to 2001 and at Corcoran State Prison from 1996 to 1997. Ahlin served as a correctional officer at Avenal State Prison from 1991 to 1996. She serves as the California Department of State Hospitals’ representative on the California Rehabilitation Oversight Board and is secretary of the Western Psychiatric State Hospital Association board. Ahlin earned a Master of Arts degree in leadership and organizational development from Fresno Pacific University.
Ms. Cruz has been executive director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), California since 2010. She was director of development at the Sacramento Waldorf School from 2007 to 2009, executive director at the Muscular Dystrophy Association from 2005 to 2007, political action campaign coordinator at the California Hospital Association from 2004 to 2005 and director of media outreach at the California Broadcasters Association from 2003 to 2004. Ms. Cruz is a member of the California Social Worker Education Center Mental Health Committee and the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development Workforce Education and Training Advisory Committee. Ms. Cruz earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of San Francisco. Ms. Cruz was appointed to COMIO by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. in 2015.
Matthew Garcia has been with the Sacramento Police Department since 1996. Officer Garcia has served in various capacities during his 20-year career. As a member of the Problem Orientated Policing team he was responsible for finding long-term policing solutions using non-traditional policing methods. He has also served as a Bank Robbery Investigator working with the FBI to identify, investigate and arrest offenders. Officer Garcia is currently a Field Training Officer (FTO) assigned to North Command. As a Senior FTO, Corporal Garcia is responsible for the training and supervision of new Police Officers in the field. From 1987-2002 he served with the United States Air Force; from 1990-1991 as a Security Forces member, Mr. Garcia was deployed to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in support of Desert Shield/Storm; from 1999-2002 he was assigned to the Security Forces Academy in San Antonio, Texas, where he was a Master Instructor. At the academy he taught and led a cadre of instructors in the training of Airman entering the Security Forces career field. Mr. Garcia has a Peace Officers Standard Training (P.O.S.T) Advanced Certification, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Leadership (MPA) from National University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from California State University, Sacramento. Mr. Garcia was appointed to COMIO by the Senate Rules Committee in 2016.
Dr. Joshua was selected in 2013 to lead the San Diego County Sheriff's Medical Services Division as Chief Medical Officer to design and manage a medical system that provides comprehensive medical care for the inmate/patients who are housed at county jails across San Diego County. Prior to the Sheriff's Department, Dr. Joshua, who is a board-certified Emergency Medicine physician, served as the Senior Medical Officer in Healthcare Reform at Tri-City Medical Center and as Medical Director for Volunteers of America, a non-profit organization that assists the homeless. Dr. Joshua has been designing an innovative managed care model for the county jails in order to meet the medical and financial challenges of Public Safety Realignment. Dr. Joshua earned his medical degree from the State University of New York, Syracuse where he was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society and holds a Master's degree in Business Administration from UC Irvine where he was awarded the Top GPA Award for the Health Care Executive MBA Program Class of 2013. He completed a two-year hospital administrative fellowship at UC San Diego. He has worked clinically in the Emergency department at UC San Diego and at Tri-City Medical Center and currently practices clinically at the Veterans Affairs Emergency Department. He currently sits on the Board of Directors for San Diego Health Connect, a non for profit health information exchange to improve quality and coordination of patient care. Dr. Joshua was appointed to COMIO by Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins in 2015.
Jennifer Kent has been the director of the California Department of Health Care Services since January 2015. Director Kent oversees a staff of 3,700 individuals at DHCS, which is responsible for the operation of Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. The department manages the spending of more than $90 billion annually in public funds that support the health of more than 12.5 million Californians. Kent had served as executive director of Local Health Plans of California since September 2013. Prior to that, she was principal with Health Management Associates Inc., from 2011 through 2013, where she advised clients on issues of health care reform. Her previous California government service included leadership roles in legislative, intergovernmental, financial and health policy areas with the Office of the Governor, the Health and Human Services Agency, and at DHCS. Kent earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government/History at Saint Mary’s College of California, and received a Master’s of Public Administration from the University of Southern California.
Stephen V. Manley is a Superior Court judge in Santa Clara County. He has served on the bench for over 25 years. He was a founder of the Drug Treatment Court in Santa Clara County as well as the Santa Clara County Mental Health Treatment Court. Judge Manley was appointed to COMIO by Chief Justice Ronald M. George of the California Supreme Court in 2010.
Mr. Meyer is a Clinical Professor and Research Scholar at the Institute of Psychiatry, Law and Behavioral Sciences of the University of Southern California - Keck School of Medicine, where he is responsible for the criminal law and the mental health law curricula. Mr. Meyer previously served as Chief Deputy Director and Counsel of the Los Angeles County (LAC) Department of Mental Health, as Director of the LAC Department of Community and Senior Affairs, and as Interim Public Defender and Chief Deputy Director of the LAC Public Defender. Mr. Meyer is an attorney, having specialized in mental health law and criminal defense for more than 30 years. He obtained his B.A. degree at the University of Southern California and his J.D. degree from the University of California - Los Angeles School of Law. Currently he is a Candidate for the Doctorate in Health Law and Policy, emphasis in Bioethics, at the Loyola University of Chicago School of Law. Mr. Meyer is an internal Board member of the Elyn Saks Institute of Mental Health Law, Policy and Ethics of the University of Southern California - Gould School of Law. Mr. Meyer previously served on the California Judicial Council Task Force for Criminal Justice Collaboration on Mental Health Issues and continues to work with judges, lawyers and court administrators throughout the United States on this difficult issue. In addition, he is Chair of the Board of the national Sixth Amendment Center and is a member of the California State Bar Association; the American Bar Association and its sections on Criminal Justice, Center for Professional Responsibility and Health Care Law; the American Society for Law, Medicine and Ethics; and the American Health Lawyer’s Association. Mr. Meyer was appointed to COMIO by Assembly Speaker Robert M. Hertzberg in 2002.
Dr. Pincu is a Professor Emeritus of Criminology at California State University, Fresno, and a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He also previously worked as a Probation Officer and Juvenile Probation Officer with the County of Contra Costa. Additionally, he has written textbooks and articles on topics such as Counseling Criminal Justice Offenders, Criminal Justice: Realities and Challenges, and Can Punishment and Rehabilitation Coexist?, among others. He is a member of the National Association of Forensic Counselors, American Group Psychotherapy Association, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. Dr. Pincu previously served as a Senate Rules Committee appointee on the California Counsel on Criminal Justice from 2005 to 2011. Dr. Pincu was appointed to COMIO by the Senate Rules Committee (chaired by Senator Kevin de León) in 2015.
Mack Jenkins has been chief probation officer at the San Diego County Probation Department since 2007. He served in several positions at the Orange County Probation Department from 1977 to 2007, including division director, assistant director, supervisor and deputy probation counselor. Jenkins was an adjunct instructor of criminal justice at the Rancho Santiago Community College District from 1992 to 2007. He is a member of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Board of Directors and the Judicial Council’s Task Force for Criminal Justice Collaboration on Mental Health Issues. Jenkins earned a Master of Science degree in criminal justice from California State University, Long Beach. Mr. Jenkins was appointed to COMIO by Governor Jerry Brown 2015.
Stephanie Welch
Executive Officer
Office: (916) 324-7021
Cell: (916)764-4996

Norine Occhipinti
Associate Governmental Program Analyst
Office: (916) 324-3826

Renee Whitehead
Administrative Assistant
Office: (916) 341-7011

Montana Strohl-Roy
Student Intern


Contact Us

Stephanie Welch
Ph: (916) 324-7021
Fax: (916) 442-2637

Council on Mentally Ill Offenders (COMIO)
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Office of the Secretary
1515 S Street, Suite 502-South
Sacramento, CA 95811