Mental Health Court September 10, 2011Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Healthcare, Mental Hospital, mental illness, Mental Illness and Medication, Uncategorized.
According to the news program Frontline, as of January 2010, one out of every 100 people in the United States is incarcerated . Of that population, nearly 25% of these 3 million people have a diagnosed mental illness, and 16% of the prison population has a severe mental illness. At a cost of 7% of the operating budget of the United States, the figure for incarceration of the mentally ill totals $910,000,000. It’s no wonder that prisons are the largest mental health institutions in the nation.
The latest weapons to help reduce the population of mentally ill in prisons are Mental Health Courts. Designed as an alternative to incarceration of the mentally ill, the cost of these courts is substantially less than the $62 per day that prisoners cost the taxpayer, saving taxpayers tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.
Designed for violators who have committed a crime as a direct result of their mental illness, the program doesn’t allow anyone who has committed a felony to participate. The purpose of the program is to get those targeted mentally ill individuals help by giving them intense judicially supervised treatment including help with their mental illness that has up until that time eluded them in the judicial system.
In the Mental Health Court program, the prisoner, or client as he is known in the program, is given a choice of attending Mental Health Court or serving time in prison or jail. This program is entirely voluntary. If the client chooses Mental Health Court,he must participate in the entire program for the two year duration. A large part of this participation is receiving the needed mental health services as well as supervision by members of the mental health team, including the judge, prosecutor, public defender, and court mental health specialist. This team of people encourages the client to stay on track with the program.
As a result of attending Mental Health Court, the client, now medicated and a productive member of society, will graduate from the program in an official ceremony, receiving a certificate of graduation in front of friends and family. He then becomes a productive member of society rather than a burden on the already over-crowded prison population.
If the client drops out of the program or is terminated for any reason, he is sentenced for the crime. The penalty is no greater than if the client had not participated in the program, and the judge will normally take into consideration the fact that the client did make the effort to try Mental Health Court.
The goals of the Mental Health Court are to increase access to mental health resources, encourage a focus on recovery, prevent revolving door to the jail, give an opportunity to contribute to society, and spend less time in jail or prison.
As anyone with a mental illness can tell you, staying on the program and taking the needed medication goes a long way towards keeping the client out of the revolving door of jail. By the end of the two year period, the client is generally stabilized and capable of making the realization that he needs medication in order to function well in society. Hopefully, this realization will be enough to keep him medicated and out of the prison system, thus increasing his quality of life and decreasing the cost to American taxpayers.
The cost of housing mentally ill in jails is an expense we can all do without, as long as we are as a nation kept safe. We can use all the help we can get in these uncertain financial times.