Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Law enforcement and corrections officers as mental health advocates

Why should corrections executives care about mental health policy?

Because America’s jails and prisons have become the nation’s de facto psychiatric hospitals.

[And ] unlike Dorothea Dix, modern mental health advocates … tend to focus very little on what the mental health system should be doing to abate this tragedy and instead shift the burden to law enforcement and corrections officials.

The criminal justice system is called upon to divert the mentally ill from the criminal justice system through specialized police programs, mental health courts, and jail-based treatment. Mental health advocates push law enforcement to improve crisis intervention training, ignoring the fact that it is their role to stop crises before they get to that point. They want more mental health courts, seemingly forgetting that those useful tools still require someone with a severe mental illness to be arrested before that “diversion” tool can be implemented.

Read more from TAC Executive Director Mary Zdanowicz in this month’s Sheriff Magazine, published by the National Sheriffs Association.

Labels: ,