Mental Illness and Prison

In doing my regular forensic work this past week I was reminded of the terrible condition our mental health system is in throughout the United States. After each tragedy in America that makes national news involving someone with psychological problems politicians, members of the news media, professionals and virtually all of the public call for a major overhaul of our mental health system. In reality, nothing changes. Public mental health systems are operating with the budgets of organizations from the 1980s.
It costs somewhere between 60 & 65 thousand dollars per year to house prison inmates. While we spend billions on prisons and thousands on mental health services we achieve very little. At one time the Sheriff of Los Angeles County noted he ran the largest inpatient mental health center in America. He wasn’t proud of it. Families often resort to acts of complete frustration using the criminal law system to get help for their loved ones suffering from mental illness. Estimates are that as many as 50% of the homeless suffer from severe mental illnesses.
Locking up those with mental illness makes as much sense as to put Americans with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia or chronic pain in prison.
I saw another aspect of things this past week. It entailed a convicted murderer with a long history of criminal acts doing life without the possibility of parole with no mental illness but getting in trouble to pass the time and faking a mental illness.
This is wrong! Are priorities as a nation are wrong.
In 1979 there were hundreds of thousands of dollars available for mental illness prevention and mental health promotion. In 2014 there are virtually NO dollars available for these services.
Yet, the most economically sound practice is to invest in a revolutionary new public mental health system with prevention and promotion programs. The chances of this coming from Congress in the foreseeable future is Zero.
And in 2014 advances in science have led to revolutionary methods of treatment of the severely mentally ill with both medication and targeted therapeutic measures. Thousands of studies have shown that the combination of medication and therapy are way better than each one individually.
Plus, there is little research dealing with modern methods of mental illness prevention.
It is extremely troubling to me to see all of the suffering that people endure who are plagued by mental illness.
So for the country, the states, the people in general, for social order and most importantly for the individuals with psychological disorders we must all demand more.

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