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Government News
Support Builds For Bill to Improve Prison MH Care
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 11 page 7-7

Eleven members of the U.S. House of Representatives have agreed to cosponsor the "Mentally Ill Offender and Crime Reduction Act of 2003."

Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio) introduced the bill (HR 2387) in June 2003. The Senate passed it by unanimous consent in October 2003, immediately after release of a report by Human Rights Watch titled "Ill-Equipped: U.S. Prisons and Offenders With Mental Illness" (Psychiatric News, December 5, 2003).

APA is supporting the bill, which would provide grants to create or expand mental health courts, train correctional officers and others to identify symptoms of mental illness, promote cooperative efforts to treat mental illness and substance abuse, and promote intergovernmental cooperation among prisoners with mental illness.

In February, APA President Marcia Goin, M.D., convened a conference on jail-diversion programs whose theme was the fiscal result of criminalization of people with mental illness (see page 4; also, Psychiatric News, March 19). The conference was co-chaired by APA Presidentelect Steven Sharfstein, M.D., in conjunction with APA's Corresponding Committee on Jails and Prisons.

Committee Chair Henry Weinstein, M.D., said that committee members are working with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and the Council of State Governments to develop cost data and analyses that convince legislators that it is cost-effective, as well as humane, to provide access to high-quality, community-based mental health services whose goal is to minimize unnecessary incarceration of people with mental illness. ▪

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