Getting the Mentally Ill Out of Jail and Off the Streets

Mentally Ill in Jail

Each year, hundreds of thousands of veterans are arrested and incarcerated and many of them suffer from mental health conditions and disorders that have gone untreated. For man of these mentally ill veterans diversion and treatment and not incarceration are the answer.

Getting the Mentally Ill Out of Jail and Off the Streets

Source: Getting the Mentally Ill Out of Jail and Off the Streets

Behind the bars of prisons and jails in the United States exists a shadow mental health care system where nearly half a million inmates have a serious mental illness like schizophrenia. In hospitals, severely mentally ill patients languish for months in acute care units, which are designed to stabilize patients, not to help their long-term recovery.

High quality, ethically administered psychiatric asylums would provide the seriously mentally ill with a place to stabilize and recover.

To give these people the care they deserve, we need to bring back psychiatric asylums. Not the dismal institutions that were shuttered in the past, or settings of gothic fiction, but asylums based on the true meaning of the word: places of sanctuary and safety for vulnerable people. The current system too often fails to protect and care for individuals who have serious mental illness in the appropriate place and at the appropriate time.

Mental health treatment should be provided in a seamless continuum that ranges from outpatient care, to community services and supportive housing, to inpatient medical care. But the system is so utterly disjointed, uncoordinated and poorly funded, that those who need help, instead end up in jails and prisons, or warehoused in nursing homes and other group housing facilities.

The Supreme Court was right to have ruled in the 1999 Olmstead decision that individuals with physical or mental disabilities should be provided treatment in the least restrictive setting. But the court also warned that people who need more support, in therapeutic institutional settings, should continue to receive it. Read More


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