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Monday, June 6, 2016

Stopping the revolving prison door for the mentally ill

by Courtenay Harris Bond
Originally posted May 10, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

But the unfortunate reality right now is that many people with serious mental illness who commit even minor infractions are locked up, making over-crowded prisons and jails responsible for mental health services they are ill equipped to deal with.

“The police are called on to do too much, and the health care system is not doing enough,” Sisti said. “The whole idea that the police are now front-line mental health workers shows that we’ve abdicated our responsibilities as health care professionals.”

“The police in their best efforts aren’t equipped with the tools”—psychiatric medications, for example, that only physicians and nurses can administer­—“to de-escalate some of these situations,” added Cyndi Rickards, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminology and Justice Studies at Drexel.

Dr. Philip Candilis, director of the forensic psychiatry fellowship at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, described a jail diversion program in Arlington, Va., where courts work with social service agencies to aid people struggling with mental illness who find themselves in trouble with the law. Mental health courts in Philadelphia and Washington function in a similar way.

The article is here.