In this morning’s Houston Chronicle (Friday, Sept 7, 2012, B8), the editor describes an innovative and humane program that has been implemented by the Harris County Jail. The editor reports that the Harris County Jail has become a “de facto mental hospital” as “almost 25% of its inmates, many of them non-violent, suffer from mental illness requiring psychotropic medicines. In response to this troubling statistic, the city has modernized its approach to nonviolent residents involved in emergency calls. Last year, Sheriff Adrian Garcia and Harris County Commissioners set up three crises intervention response teams—called CIRT. Each CIRT team includes one law enforcement officer paired with one expert from the county’s Mental Healthand the Mental Retardation Authority (MHMRA). Collaboratively, they evaluate calls or on-site crises that appear to involve mental illness. If the MHMRA professional believes it is necessary, the nonviolent mentally ill person is taken to a mental facility, not to jail.
The editor points out that these programs decriminalize mental health which is better for the patients themselves, for the community, and diverts tax dollars to health care rather than punishment. This program with police-mental health care workers collaborative teams has also been tried by the Houston Police Departmentwith success. Interested readers my read the complete editorial.
Here’s the link:
- Police are learning to deal with the mentally ill (kansascity.com)
- County jails struggling with more mentally ill inmates (denverpost.com)
- Violence and Mental Illness (peerwork.wordpress.com)