June 23, 2005

Initiatives Provide Treatment?

Mentally ill get prison, not couch; Number behind bars up 60% in N.J.

Recently, we covered a story that discussed the need for law enforcers to be educated about brain disorders: Police Officers Education on Brain Disorders? A new story connected to this past story discusses the high numbers of people suffering from mental disorders in prison along with a possible solution to this problem.

Violet Popadich's 42-year-old son, labeled "Midtown Madman" by the tabloids will probably spend the rest of his life in jail for killing two people. And though what Ronald did was awful, we must consider why he and others like himself, people suffering from schizophrenia or other mental disorders, get involved in situations where they harm others? Consider this: "In New Jersey, the mentally ill population in state prisons has jumped 60 percent since 2000." Though this statistic is focused on New Jersey, it seems that other parts of the country are experiencing similar increases. Further, "Matthew Schuman, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections," stated that, "Roughly 80 percent of...inmates (in New Jersey jails)...(are)...undiagnosed prior to incarceration." In fact, in New Jersey, more people suffering from brain disorders are in jail than in psychiatric hospitals. Once again, other states are experience similar increases. Though this news is upsetting, a solution is being proposed:

Acting Gov. Codey has proposed adding $40 million for mental health initiatives. The funds would expand staff at mental health screening centers, clear waiting lists for psychiatric services and create programs that provide alternatives to jail for people with mental illness, he says. Codey also talks of establishing a $200 million housing trust fund, using leftover bond proceeds, that would create 10,000 permanent housing units over the next 10 years for the mentally ill.


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