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Letters to the Editor
Bill Offers Far More
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 20 page 30-30

The June 4 issue was remarkable in that it contained no fewer than three articles focusing on the interface between the mental health and criminal justice systems. We applaud APA's outgoing president, Dr. Marcia Goin, and APA for their growing interest in this underserved population.

One of the articles, "Support Builds for Bill to Improve Prison MH Care," described APA's support of S 1194, the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2003. The article admirably and concisely summarizes the content of the bill, which, if passed, would provide grant funds to a variety of collaborative programs to help offenders with mental illness remain in or return safely to their communities. To be funded, jurisdictions would be required to demonstrate collaboration between a criminal justice agency or a juvenile justice agency and a mental health agency.

Unfortunately, the headline of the article misrepresented this bill—it is about much more than providing better psychiatric and other mental health services in prisons. The purpose of this bill is to promote public safety and community health by facilitating collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, mental health treatment, and substance abuse systems in diverting individuals with mental illness from the criminal and juvenile justice systems and in treating such individuals within those systems. In reality, upon passage, this bill would assist jurisdictions in creating services designed to prevent individuals with mental illness from entering prison and needing the mental health services provided (or not provided) there. Programs that would be funded would specifically not include internal prison mental health programs (as there would be no collaborative mental health agency in most jurisdictions) but instead might be the following:

We commend APA and Psychiatric News for their support and coverage of this important issue and thank you for the opportunity to comment.

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