A new round of federal grants, long supported by APA, aims to reduce the
nearly 800,000 arrests of people with mental illness made each year.
The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
(SAMHSA) will distribute $7.2 million in state grants over three years to
divert individuals with mental illness away from the criminal justice system
and into community-based mental health services, including substance abuse
"All too often individuals with mental illness, often with
co-occurring substance abuse, are incarcerated instead of receiving treatment
for their disorders," said SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie, M.A.,
when the grants were announced last month.
The treatment and support services that the grants will fund can reduce the
criminalization and incarceration of nonviolent adult offenders with mental
illnesses, Curie said.
APA has been a strong advocate of the jail-diversion grant program, which
has awarded 26 three-year grants since it began in 2002. The Mental Health
Liaison Group (MHLG), which APA helps lead, has reported that research
consistently shows that jail-diversion programs are effective and benefit not
only individuals with mental illness but also their communities. Researchers
estimate that 7 percent of the 11.4 million people arrested each year have
current symptoms of mental illness. Three-quarters of those individuals have
co-occurring substance use disorders, according to a study in the August 1996
Archives of General Psychiatry.
The SAMHSA jail-diversion grant program "should continue based not
only on its efficacy, but also because, for people inappropriately warehoused
in jails, appropriate and effective community-based treatment is needed
now," stated the MHLG's recommendation for federal Fiscal 2006
In 2003 the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health recommended"
widely adopting adult criminal justice and juvenile justice
diversion... strategies to avoid the unnecessary criminalization and extended
incarceration of nonviolent adult and juvenile offenders with mental
SAMHSA lists more than 300 jail-diversion programs nationwide. The programs
include efforts to divert people with mental illness into treatment before
formal charges are brought and "postbooking" efforts to identify
mentally ill individuals in jail or in court and divert them to mental health
The grant recipients coordinate with social-service agencies to ensure that
life-skills training, housing placement, vocational training, job placement,
and health care are available to those who are diverted.
The grants funded six programs in five states.
Among the largest grant recipients, New York City will receive $400,000
annually for three years to help the Bronx expand its mental health court and
serve 180 more mentally ill individuals annually who are charged with
misdemeanor offenses. Services will include Assertive Community Treatment and
wellness self-management programs that provide culturally and linguistically
A 2004 SAMHSA-funded study found that these programs reduce the time people
with mental illness spend in jail and successfully link diverted inmates to
community-based services, without increasing the safety risk to the
More information about the grant recipients is posted at<www.samhsa.gov/news/newsreleases/051007_JailDiversion.htm>.▪