MENTAL HEALTH: Treatment Can End Incarceration Cycle
By taking a punitive approach to its mentally ill homeless population, California racks up nearly $1.8 billion "arresting, trying and incarcerating" such people, an editorial in today's Los Angeles Times argues, urging lawmakers to support a bill that would focus on treatment options. Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg's (D-Sacramento) measure, up for consideration today in the Assembly Health Committee, would "bring some sanity back to the way California treats seriously impaired people" and relieve the "insidious cycle of arrest and release without diagnoses, medications or follow-up care," according to the editorial. Under the bill, the state Department of Mental Health would award grants to community programs that mirror successful initiatives, such as one in Long Beach that doubled "the percentage of those working and living independently and increased sevenfold the number taking their medications." The bill would also create community outreach programs to "gain people's trust through weeks or months of repeated conversations, interventions with police, free meals and rides to the mental health clinic." While the start-up costs for the plan would approach $50 million, the editorial asserts that the program should finance itself within four years by cutting prison costs 20%. The Times concludes that the bill "is a cost- effective alternative to locking up the mentally ill and a reasonably priced contribution to public safety" (4/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.