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Jun 17, 2009

What percentage of inmates in your state is mentally ill?
MAP LINK:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/asylums/etc/map.html

Use this link for the full PBS article.  I am experiencing difficulty keeping this link posted, so this much be important information.
  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/asylums/etc/faqs.html

The link above leads to PBS article called THE NEW ASYLUMS.  An excerpt is here:  Of the 2 million inmates being held in prisons and jails across the country, experts believe nearly 500,000 are mentally ill. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), 16 percent of the prison population can be classified as severely mentally ill, meaning that they fit the psychiatric classification for illnesses such as schizophrenia, major depression, and bipolar disorder. According to staff at city and community jails, 25 percent of the jail population is severely mentally ill. [MY CONGRESSMAN REPORTED THAT 1.25 MILLION ARE MENTALLY ILL, ACCORDING TO DATA REPRESENTATIVES RECEIVED FROM A SEMINAR IN 2008, SO THE NUMBERS DIFFER WIDELY.]  However, when other mental illnesses, such as anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and depression, are included, the numbers are much higher, and NAMI puts the number of inmates suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse the percentage at well over 50 percent.

Most experts agree that the increasing number of imprisoned mentally ill people is due to two major policy shifts over the past decades. One was deinstitutionalization, or the process of closing down mental hospitals throughout the country that began in the 1950s. [Mary's note:  THERE WAS NEVER ANY DEINSTITUTIONALIZATION - ONLY TRANS-INSTITUTIONALIZATION.  NOW THEY ARE IN PRISON - A MUCH WORSE ENVIRONMENT - OR THEY ARE HOMELESS OR DEAD.]  The idea was that the mentally ill would do better living back in the community with a community-based mental health care system in place to handle their needs. But adequate funding, coordination and commitment didn't follow this change and the lack of resources and commitment to a community-based system of care continues to be a problem in the vast majority of American communities.

The other policy shift behind the rise in mentally ill behind bars was the tougher sentencing laws implemented in the 1980s and '90s that have resulted in a large increase in the prison population.

"Unfortunately, I do believe that some of the mental health treatment that we provide in prisons is better than what one might get in the community," says Dr. Reginald Wilkinson, the head of the Ohio prison system. "I've actually had a judge mention to me before that, 'We hate to do this, but we know the person will get treated if we send this person to prison.' When you know the courts are more apt to send a person to prison because they are going to get treated, there's something disconcerting about that."

"I just think that there's a population that's not at times desirable, and it's expensive to provide services [for them] in the community," says Debbie Nixon-Hughes, chief of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections' Bureau of Mental Health Services. "… There's no secret: This is the age where no one wants new taxes, and it's going to cost money to provide the level of services to decrease the prison and jail population."  (See the link above for full article.  Beware that the rates of incarceration for mentally ill persons presented in this article are much lower than estimates by other sources.)

ONE WOULD ASSUME FROM NIXON-HUGHES' COMMENT THAT IT COSTS TAXPAYERS LESS TO TREAT MENTAL ILLNESS IN PRISON THAN IN A MENTAL HOSPITAL OR IN THEIR COMMUNITIES.  THIS IS NOT THE CASE.  EACH PERSON INCARCERATED COSTS TAXPAYERS AROUND $50,000 PER YEAR - EACH ONE!  PEOPLE WHO NEED ONGOING MENTAL OR PHYSICAL TREATMENT IN PRISON COSTS TAXPAYERS UP TO THREE TIMES THAT AMOUNT.  THERE IS NO SAVINGS TO IMPRISON AND TREAT RATHER THAN TO TREAT MENTALLY ILL PERSONS IN HOSPITALS. 

Community care costs are only expensive because SICK FOLKS DON'T STAY ON THEIR MEDS.  That is because there is a need to enforce treatment.  AOTs that combine subsistence assistance with enforced treatment reduce future arrests, hospitalizations, and homelessness by rates of 85 to 97%.  It is cheaper to treat people in their communities, more humane, and safer for the public.  But it only works with ENFORCED CARE.  Remove the stumbling blocks and save taxpayers money while delivering acute mental pateints from arrest.

Prison profiteers ought to get out of the public health forum.

Mary Neal - Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill
http://www.Care2.com/c2c/group/AIMI

 


 

 
 
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Mary Neal
, 5, 2 children
Atlanta, GA, USA
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