Expanding access to community-based mental health treatment has the
potential to reduce the number of people with mental illness who are
incarcerated in the nation's prisons and jails, according to a mental health
The Department of Justice reported in "Mental Health Problems of
Prison and Jail Inmates" that more than half of all inmates have mental
health problems (see article above). In response, the Campaign for Mental
Health Reform (CMHR) is calling for increased funding of community-based and
preventive mental health treatment.
The CMHR is a coalition of 16 national health organizations, of which APA
is a member, that formed after release of the 2003 report of the President's
New Freedom Commission on Mental Health.
In a press release that CMHR issued on the Department of Justice report,
CMHR called for increased federal and state funding of community-based mental
health services; evidence-based practices such as peer-support programs and
supported housing; increased funding in early intervention and rehabilitative
mental health services for children and adults; and full funding of the
Mentally III Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004, which
authorized up to $50 million annually in funding for programs that engage
criminal justice and mental health systems in reducing the criminalization of
people with mental illness.
The CMHR also emphasized the importance of pre-release planning services
for inmates with mental illness.
Another group, the National Association of Counties (NACO), called on the
U.S. attorney general to create a national commission to study and make
recommendations to all levels of government on how to reduce the number of
inmates with mental illness. In July APA's Board of Trustees voted to support
"There are various levels of government that could be involved in
funding community services for people with mental illness, thereby lowering
their incarceration rates," Don Murray, NACO's senior legislative
director for justice and public safety, told Psychiatric News."
If we can lower the recidivism rate, we can direct billions of dollars
that would have been spent on incarceration into mental health prevention
programs. This is a major crisis—a problem that is