Too many county jails either have no standard screenings for mental illness or screenings that are subpar—turning institutions of incarceration into de facto psychiatric units.
Mental Health Media Clips
County commissioner George Murdock said mental illness is a major concern nationwide and Umatilla County is no different. “We have way too many people in jail suffering from mental illness,” he said.
Teams of two mental health experts from Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare will cover 12-hour shifts and answer police calls in the community. The outreach could give law enforcement deeper insight into people who are already on the county’s mental health radar, as well as provide a point of contact for people with undiagnosed or untreated mental illness.
Bill Giguere, development director with the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama, told commissioners that the Stepping Up Initiative would allow the center to hire a case manager to coordinate between the Morgan County Jail, Decatur Morgan Hospital, and other county hospitals to help identify and communicate about those who have a mental illness.
Thad Tatum is one of the founders of Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), a nonprofit whose mission centers around advocating for and empowering those personally affected by the criminal justice system. A small part of the New Orleans-based organization’s efforts involves fostering an open dialogue around mental health and the trauma that incarceration may cause.
In some states, including New York, authorities can keep attempting to restore a defendant’s mental capacity until the person has served two-thirds of the maximum sentence he or she would receive if eventually found guilty. Mario Ramos’s maximum sentence is life in prison, and so he sits trapped in Rikers, serving out two-thirds of his life, an unofficial sentence with no verdict and no certain end point.
The Westminster Police Department became the first Maryland law enforcement agency to complete the One Mind Campaign. The initiative set forth four actionable items for departments to complete to improve the way police respond when they encounter individuals with mental illnesses.
Police officers are being asked more and more to act as social workers. Now officers in Janesville Wisconsin are getting help from a real social worker in dealing with people having mental-health crises. “I wish we had enough money to do it at every police department,” said Lt. Mike Blaser, the department’s lead crisis intervention officer.
One of the first grants that our Stepping Up team secured financed an intake survey that identifies people for whom jail time is not the best solution. Once an individual is identified with a mental health or other problem, one of our county’s network of service providers can be brought in to help.
Sebastian County, Arkansas is in the process of securing grants funds for a mental health court, which will function hand-in-hand with the newly opened Crisis Stabilization Unit in Fort Smith. Last year, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill to set up procedures and rules for judicial districts to create mental health specialty courts.