Sunday, March 13, 2011

Budget cuts would force police officers, jails to care for mentally ill

This AP story by Sommer Ingram makes the excellent point that budget cuts to mental health services amount to a de facto decision to force police officers and county jails to care for the mentally ill:
"We're about to see huge setbacks. I think we're going to get slaughtered," said Leon Evans, chief executive of Bexar County Mental Health Care services. "We've been developing some tools so people don't have to go to the hospital and prison. But I think all these programs that are very effective, that help to reclaim lives, are at risk."

Experts say slashing mental health funding will have a painful and resounding effect across Texas when the mentally ill can't access the treatment and medication they need to function.

"What's happening is the criminalization of mental illness," said Polly Hughes, public policy chair of National Alliance on Mental Illness. "It shifts the responsibility of taking care of mental illness to the counties and officers who are already stretched thin."

Community services such as clinics, crisis hotlines and outpatient treatment are critical to keeping the mentally ill out of state institutions and jail.

The shortage of mental hospital beds means officers often have to drive a mentally ill person hundreds of miles to the next open bed.

"What we're facing in 2011 are law enforcement officers as de facto social workers and jails becoming asylums," Houston Senior Police Officer Frank Webb said. "Police officers are responding to more mental illness than social workers."

Jails are packed with mentally ill Texans who most often haven't committed a violent crime, but cycle endlessly through the system for minor violations, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.

Texans with a serious mental illness are eight times more likely to be incarcerated in jails than treated in hospitals, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. A community health care program costs $12 per day to care for a patient, compared to $137 per day to incarcerate them, the group said.
If counties and municipalities aren't already freaking out about proposed mental health cuts, they aren't paying attention. This is another one of those areas - a common theme in corrections policy - where budget reductions by the state pretty much directly increase costs to local governments.


Robert Langham said...

We have been through this several times in the modern era, though admittedly not in an extreme financial crisis like this one. Everyone knows what actually works and and everyone knows what merely plays to an interest group, hides the cost, moves it to someone else's plate or actually makes things worse.
These are all KNOWN strategies. Do NOT make choices that move the crisis to someone else's plate or make things worse.

steve said...

Although low on the judicial ladder, I have a great influence on the initial entry into the system (a rural JP). Minor class B and A's get a low and/or PR bond. Also, I first read of the DPS surcharge amnesty program on your blog and have published notice in the local paper and entered every eligible defendant my court has contact with. You are a wee bit more liberal than I am..but I haven't really had cause to hammer you over a year or so readings.

Anonymous said...

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, by the end of 1990 there were 771, 243 people in state and federal prisons. Today it is estimated that there are 2 million people incarcerated in state prisons throughout the United States.

In the 2006 report from the Human Rights Watch the number of people in jails and prison with mental illness nearly quadrupled to 1.25 million from 1999.

Interestingly enough, in 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. 527 U.S. 581, which held that people with disabilities have a protected right under the Americans with Disabilities Act, not to be forcibly confined in state institutions.

So, from 1999 to 2006, the states responded by simply locking these people up in herds, in state prisons, instead and in contast to what exists today, it is not all that different.

The 2009 report from the Human Rights Index estimates that in 2009, there were 350.000 people with mental and other like disabilities in jails and prisons for, which was higher if you include anxiety disorders.

In terms of managed health care services, Valitás Health Services which owns Correctional Medical Services, holds the contract to provide medical and dental servies in Missouri prisons. And according to the March 4, 2011 report by St. Louis Today website, Valitas will have an estimated $1.4 billion in revenue received this year.

Mental Health Management Services, Inc., which owns Mental Health Management Correctional Services holds the contract to provide mental health & psychiatric, services in Missouri prisons. And from 2007 to 2011 it has received $86,963,449.17.

Suffice to say, crime is a major money maker for private corporations, and because it is premised on a flat-fee payment, the objective for them is to produce financial profits. This begs the question of what incentive is there for these corporations to help offenders, when doing so will likely mean lower corporate profits?

According to the March 2011 report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, states, across the board, are making serious budget cuts to mental health care and treatment services. The natural cause and effect when we decrease services is to increase crime rates and with this, increase the prison population of offenders with mental and other like disabilities.

As pointed out in the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 2008, “In addition, mentally ill offenders can be affected psychologically by incarceration differently than general population offenders.”

People with disabilities are NOT second class citizens but are routinely treated as such, and when we cut funding for mental health / developmental services and programs, and for community housing providers, we disenfranchise this class of citizens and inflict irreparable harms.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

I shall choose to agree with Mr. Langham,BUT,


We as a society have determined that we must care for our mentally ill. this is a good decision, everyone agrees,
BUT, no one wants the responsibility. We have a ton of MHMR agencies,
BUT, We dont give them any funding to operate.


Stop paying senators and congressmen and mayors and city councilpersons and governors and presidents. you see in America people used to do those jobs because they wanted to see us succeed, it wasnt about making sure one party beat out the other party never mind what helped joe citizen live his life. people entered civil service because they wanted to serve the people of our nation. Show me One (1) politician in this nation today that would give up the money the trappings of success and live in a small regular house in a regular neighborhood with you and me and yes they guy down the street who is on probation. I DON'T THINK SO

Christy said...

This isn't surprising to me and there are already far too many mentally ill people in the Texas prison system that aren't being provided adequate care and medications for their illness. It seems as though if the individual was not deemed or proven mentally ill at the trial phase then a blind eye is turned toward the problem.

Well said Homeless Cowboy!!