Mental Health Issues Impacting Justice
Prisons and jails across the country are filled with individuals who suffer from mental health issues. That’s right, over half of individuals in prisons and more than two-thirds of those in jails suffer from mental health problems. Is there a better way?
What We Know
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) incarcerated individuals who suffer from mental health issues generally have previous convictions and tend to serve longer sentences than do their counterparts without such issues. Without question, mental health conditions tend to become worse without treatment, leading to further problems with the criminal justice system. A number of states are working to train police and to create diversion programs for those who need better access to mental health services.
Oftentimes police are the first on the scene of an altercation involving someone who suffers from mental health issues. Many states are developing Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT’s) to assist with the assessment and de-escalation in crisis situations. This can result in fewer arrests, access to diversion programs, and fewer injuries to police and others. A collaborative effort, police and CIT members often impact communities by reducing severe outcomes involving the mentally ill. Using finely tuned assessment, interview, and negotiation skills, and identifying the effects of various psychotropic drugs, even suicidal individuals may find that interactions with these teams can be life-saving.
In addition to pre-arrest interventions, many states utilize diversion programs in lieu of incarceration, giving individuals the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions, receive the help they need, and have their records cleared in time. Studies show that individuals who have these opportunities are re-arrested at lower rates and spend less time behind bars.
Another thing many states are doing is suspending Medicaid coverage during incarceration, rather than canceling it altogether. This can be an important factor in post incarceration treatment options, ultimately favorably impacting recidivism.
Hope in Nevada
The future looks bright for mental health intervention in Nevada. This year The Department of Health and Human Services committed $43 million to the state, to be spread across 40 public and private entities and coalitions. Over $7.5 million is slated for criminal justice and diversion programs, while crisis and stabilization services, prevention and treatment, and behavioral health and workforce development are among other areas of focus. Communities across the state stand to benefit from better and targeted interventions and services for individuals struggling with mental health issues.
Your Legal Advocate
At Lobo Law, our experienced, compassionate Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys are eager to assist individuals and their families when mental health issues contribute to involvement with the criminal justice system. To discuss your situation, schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.