Mental Health Inmates a Majority of Jail Population

County jails all across the U.S. have become de facto mental health facilities as the percentage of inmates with a mental illness grows. Nationally, more than 64% of jail inmates suffer from some form of mental illness according to a 2006 Department of Justice report.  With states making drastic cuts in mental health care budgets, people who can’t get treatment do something that gets them put in jail. There they are housed alongside inmates in facilities that weren’t designed to offer mental health treatment or safeguard mentally ill individuals.

Mental Health Budget Cuts On The Rise

According to a recent article in Medill Reports, by the end of last year, the state of Illinois came in at No. 1 for mental health budget cuts, totaling more than 31 percent, said Hugh Brady, president of the Illinois board of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). He added that these cuts, in combination with the additional 40 percent in cuts proposed by Governor Quinn, would mean Illinois will have cut over 71 percent of its mental health budget in the past five years.

Dr. Joseph E. Troiani, associate professor of clinical psychology at Chicago’s Adler School of Professional Psychology and a retired U.S. Navy Commander, said that with a defunct mental health system the responsibility then falls to the jails to provide services that the mental health clinics once provided. “It’s appalling, it’s embarrassing, that the largest psychiatric facility in the United States is Cook County Jail,” Troiani said.

Dallas County Jail in North Texas treats more than 1,400 patient-inmates a day. “We’ve traded hospitals for jails,” said Matt Roberts, president of Mental Health America of Greater Dallas, adding that upon release patients are discharged with nothing more than a day’s worth of medication.

In Connecticut it costs almost double to incarcerate and treat an offender with a serious mental illness, according to a study by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and four academic institutions. The study supports Robert’s findings that nearly half of those with mental illnesses who entered the county jail system were arrested for minor, non-violent offenses.

Read the rest of the article entitled Jails Struggle to Manage Mentally Ill Inmates in Correctional News.

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