Criminal justice agencies are bearing the brunt of the mental health crisis – in cost, time, and manpower. Despite numerous initiatives from different segments of the criminal justice system, from training to mental health courts, the issue ensues and a deeper dive is required to be able to fully address the mental health crisis.
Joining Justice Clearinghouse to unpack the issue is John Snook. John is the Executive Director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a mental health advocacy organization. Their efforts in the area of mental health care reshaped the national narrative on serious mental illnesses (SMI) and available treatments.
Specifics discussed in this session are:
- An overview of the Treatment Advocacy Center – its mission and work.
- Realities on the national mental health crisis.
- Statistics that demonstrate the magnitude of the problem with the lack of available beds and facilities that can provide appropriate care.
- Link issues of victimization, criminalization, fatal encounters with law enforcement, homelessness, and suicide.
- How failure to provide mental health care and treatment causes the system to fall apart and burden other agencies.
- A look into the mentally ill population diverted to corrections and how this impacts the facilities.
- Law enforcement bearing the brunt of the issue where a sizable chunk of their calls for service are mental health-related.
- Elements contributing to the system breakdown.
- A system that encourages criminalization of mental illness.
- Lack of coordination across involved agencies to better understand the issue.
- Need for awareness and a more thorough discussion of the issue and its effects.
- Implementing a full continuum of care that is proactive, comprehensive, doesn’t promote criminalization of mental illness, and doesn’t rely on law enforcement as the de facto mental health care provider.
- Initiatives that are being implemented to address the mental health crisis through:
- Response, protocol, research, and policy.
- A mindset that encourages coordination and breaks down silos.
- The often missing discussion on the psychiatric bed crisis, making the case for additional funding, and engaging law enforcement to fortify the need for it.
- Audience questions were about:
- Commitment laws specifically Florida’s Baker Act.
- How the mental health crisis is likewise impacting other fronts like ERs and budget allocation.
- Transporting individuals with serious mental illnesses.
- Data on the cost of the problem.
- Available housing to transport patients occupying the beds.
- Mandating inclusion of CIT training for law enforcement and corrections officers.