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Government News
Grant Program Could Bring Innovation To Criminal Justice MH Care
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 14 page 8-8

APA was among those who submitted a statement to a House subcommittee last month on legislation designed to improve the identification and treatment of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system.

"People with mental illnesses make up one of the most vulnerable and treatable populations in our society," APA said in a written statement to the subcommittee, "and yet they are being housed in our most punitive institutions."

The hearing came a year after the legislation, known as the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (HR 2387), was introduced in the House by Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio). The Senate passed its version of the bill (S 1194) last fall, shortly after it was introduced by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio).

The chair of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security is Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), and the ranking Democrat is Rep. Robert Scott (D-Va.). The two were praised by the Campaign for Mental Health Reform, a national coalition representing people with mental illnesses, their families, service providers and mental health advocates including APA, for convening the hearing and urged the House committee to act swiftly on the bill.

APA also pointed out in its statement that people with mental illnesses are significantly overrepresented in jails and prisons, are much more expensive to incarcerate than other inmates, are incarcerated longer than other inmates, and would be better served economically and medically by being treated in their communities.

The legislation would authorize the attorney general to award nonrenewable grants for collaborative and comprehensive proposals designed for adults or juveniles with mental illness or co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse disorders. The grants would be used by eligible applicants to create or expand the following:

The bill requires the attorney general to work with the secretary of Health and Human Services to establish an interagency task force to identify policies that promote or hinder local collaborative initiatives.

In addition, the attorney general would have to develop a list of best practices for appropriate diversion from incarceration of adult and juvenile offenders.

"There is no question that an extremely complex situation has led to our jails and prisons becoming the primary system of care for people with serious mental illnesses in the United States. There is also no question that something must be done to change it," APA emphasized in its statement.

"We need to realign our fiscal resources to enable this. The Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act is an important step in this process. APA strongly encourages passage of HR 2387/S 1194."

The legislation can be accessed online at<http://thomas.loc.gov> by searching on the bill number, HR 2387 or S 1194.

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