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August 13, 2007
Efforts to De-Criminalize Mental Illness
As we've covered many times here - the extremely poor treatment of the mentally ill in the US is unprecedented, with over 300,000 people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder currently locked up in US jails. With any other medical disorder people are given treatment by hospitals, but with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, people are too frequently given jail sentences for minor legal infractions.
Books have been written about this problem (see this entry: "Crazy"), and now Time magazine has a good article about this growing problem:
Just ask Mike, 31, who knows firsthand. Mike suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. Since the age of 17, the Los Angeles native has been repeatedly arrested during psychosis for nuisance crimes like disturbing the peace, only to serve his time, fall off his medication and get arrested again....Though he is receiving treatment, rising health care costs and declining federal help mean Mike will likely end up in jail again.
The good news is that things are starting to get a little better. As Time mentions "Most police officers aren't trained to deal with people suffering from severe mental illness. But because they are the first to respond to calls involving psychiatric crises, police are in a unique position to fix the crippled system. That effort is now underway, thanks to Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT), which are being adopted by a growing number of police departments across the country."
We encourage you to get involved to help drive improvements in this area forward - by working with political groups that advocate for improved treatment of the mentally ill (and not just larger jails), and groups like NAMI who are trying also to improve that situation.
Read the full story: De-Criminalizing Mental Illness
The Connecticut Alliance to Benefit Law Enforcement - initiators of the CIT programs.
Posted by szadmin at August 13, 2007 08:53 AM
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