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New Project Keeps Mental Health Suspects Out Of Jail

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Jefferson County is starting a new project that hopes to keep those suffering from mental health issues out of jail. The project is headed up by the Department of Community Services. It hopes to introduce a third option for arresting officers when a suspect shows signs of mental illness.

At present, their two options are to send the suspect to jail, or to a hospital. Coordinator Timothy J. Ruetten says that instead, officers will be able to bring suspects to a crisis or respite center. This is opposed to adding strain on already overworked emergency rooms and jails.

The project also hopes for better communication between law enforcement and mental health workers. According to Ruetten, each side has its own concerns. If the project is successful, it could lead to better understanding between the groups.  And, most importantly, an ease on both organizations’ sets of resources.

Projects in similar areas within the County have already provided beneficial results. The Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team in Rochester has reduced the amount of injuries to officers in mental health incidents by 12%. Training can take up to 40 hours over a week-long course, but Mr. Ruetten is hopeful that other county forces will take up the idea.

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It’s certainly an interesting step forward, and it will be interesting to see how the project develops. Currently, the crisis center will only be used for arrests that involve emotional disturbance. But the larger impact could be on how the state – and in the future, maybe the country – deals with mental health.

Mental health and crime are challenging fields, according to experts at Forensic Psychiatric Associates. They state that specific cases need the study of complex medical information to build – or defend – a case. Half of all American jail and prison inmates suffer from mental health issues at a cost of billions to the country. So, it’s clear there is a major problem. If anything can help those figures reduce, it can only be described as a good thing for everybody.

The news is the latest in a long line of ideas about mental health and crime. The VERA Institute of Justice reports that jails have become a de facto health care provider for those with mental health problems. However, there is also a suggestion that the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Affordable Care Act may help. With more care available to those who cannot afford it, there should be fewer people missing the vital treatment that they need. Can this multi-pronged solution help towards solving the current mental health crisis?

Well, there are high hopes for Obamacare – and these new projects. Bear in mind that mental health costs the country somewhere in the region of $30 billion every year. These ideas might bring a positive advantage to every US citizen, whatever your political persuasion. Not just in medical terms, but also to prevent crime through mental health. With a little investment in the right areas, perhaps the US can make a breakthrough.