On a much-discussed topic around this blog, I found this NPR feature to be a very worthwhile read. Not only doers it define one of the huge problems with mental health care in the US, but it goes to talk about some solutions:
“It has put the jails in an awkward position. Today the three biggest mental health centers in America are jails: LA County, Cook County, Ill. (Chicago) and New York City’s Rikers Island jail. Without the support needed, conditions have created new asylums, advocates say, that can resemble the very places they vowed to shut down.
“Local jails and prisons have become the de facto mental health institutions,” says Elizabeth Hancq, director of research at the Treatment Advocacy Center, a national nonprofit that works to eliminate barriers to treatment for people with severe mental illness. “It’s really a humanitarian crisis that if you suffer from a severe mental illness in this country, you almost need to commit a crime in order to get into the system.””
Although, I will admit that even the solutions they are currently working on in Los Angeles do not address the end of that quote above. Yes, the courts are working on diversion programs for people who appear before them with treatable mental health issues, but you still have to commit a crime to get there.
Is the criminal justice system really where we want the majority of mental health care doled out? Where are the community-based services for people who have managed to not commit crimes?
Take a listen to the whole segment, and let us know your thoughts on the matter.