I have been researching the Pro Publica series on the best reporting on mental health. One of the best problems facing advocates for people with mental illness is that far too many people with a mental illness are routinely ticketed by the police. These tickets often range several hundred dollars for offenses like panhandling. Considering the limited income that people receive on disability, it seems like a waste.
A special report from Frontline traced the history of a particularly effective diversion program called mental health courts to President Bill Clinton. He signed a law that provided federal grants to help expand the number of courts with personnel specially trained to flag these cases and offer treatment instead of prison. Statistics showed that the likelihood that people would re-offend declined when they entered these special programs. In recent years, special courts for drug offenders and veterans have developed, using the same model.
Case management can also prove effective in diverting people away from behaviors that are likely to result in police contact, things like unnecessary 911 calls, by offering alternative coping strategies. Sometimes frustrated relatives believe that allowing their loved ones to experience the criminal justice system will force them to undergo treatment but sometimes it can lead to tragedies, including death. My motto: divert, prevent, recover.
- Mental health courts seek to treat, rather than jail (japantimes.co.jp)
- An Introduction to Alternative Courts: Mental Health Courts (cjfocus.com)
- Study: Michigan’s Mental Health Courts Work (sbmblog.typepad.com)
- Pr. Georges mental health court aims to treat, rather than jail, defendants – The Washington Post (pattidudek.typepad.com)