Prisons And Prisons Have Become America 's Largest Provider For Mental Health Services

864 WordsJun 21, 20154 Pages
Prisons and jails have become America’s largest provider for mental health services. The Harris County Jail treats more individuals with mental health issues on a daily basis than our state 's 10 psychiatric hospitals combined (Texas Observer). Law enforcement authorities are not meant to care for those who are mentally ill and often lack the resources and expertise to do so. We desperately need to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jails by providing this often overlooked population the mental health services they deserve. Jails have been described as “de facto mental hospitals” because they have filled the void created when state psychiatric hospitals began closing in the early 1960s through a process known as deinstitutionalization. Supporters of deinstitutionalization thought the process would help individuals suffering from a mental illness live more self-reliantly while being treated by community mental health programs. However, the federal government did not provide the necessary funding to meet the mounting demand for these programs, leaving numerous untreated. Individuals with serious mental illnesses are often poor or homeless and are likely to have substance abuse problems. Therefore, when they are left untreated, they are more likely to commit minor crimes that have been the focus of law enforcement in recent years (H. Richard Lamb and Linda Weinberger). Serious mental illness, which includes bipolar disorder, schizophre¬nia, and

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