A summit is underway this week to develop ways to reduce the number of mentally ill people in county jails. Sheriffs, judges, elected officials, and mental health professionals from 53 counties are in Sacramento this week.
Mental Health Media Clips
Lawmakers should expand the pool of mental health professionals that can perform competency exams on mentally ill criminal offenders, said South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson.
“I would like to see the Reuben Engagement Center become the template for criminal justice reform throughout the entire Indianapolis and Marion County community. It’s the kind of services that are going to be offered here that every citizen of this community deserves when they find themselves having been arrested for some kind of behavioral problem, but they suffer from mental health problems, addiction or substance abuse,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett at the opening of the Reuben Engagement Center.
“We’ve got to provide really good treatment in our criminal justice system and simultaneously we’ve got to advocate for people with mental illness and make sure that health care providers are giving the care they should be,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the incoming board chairwoman.
“Ultimately we’re trying to tackle a problem that’s not new,” Richard Cho, director of behavioral health for the CSG Justice Center and project manager for the initiative said. “It’s become commonplace that our jails have become de facto hospitals.”
How many people in the Dauphin County Prison have a mental illness? The county doesn’t know. A new initiative the county became a part of recently aims to find the answer to that question and a few others.
Yavapai County, Arizona Sheriff Scott Mascher, long an advocate of diversion programs for people with mental health problems, said last month, “Should the jails be the de facto mental health treatment centers? I don’t think we should be.”
Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Wednesday his proposed amendments to the state’s two-year budget will include funding to pay for more same-day mental health assessments and improve mental health treatment in jails, among other things.
With help from the nonprofit Council of State Governments Justice Center, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania will participate in Stepping Up, a national initiative aimed at lowering the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.
Lubbock County, Texas Sheriff Kelly Rowe has said repeatedly that mental health is the biggest issue facing jails, especially in rural counties. This week, county commissioners unanimously approved Rowe’s request to approve a resolution to join the Stepping Up Initiative, a national effort aimed at reducing the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.