Keeping Mentally Ill People out of Jails

December 18, 2016

The Daily Courier

By Scott Orr

Every year, two million people with serious mental illnesses are jailed across the U.S., which is a rate up to six times higher than the general public.

Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher, long an advocate of diversion programs for people with mental health problems, said last month, “Should the jails be the de facto mental health treatment centers? I don’t think we should be. Are we criminalizing the treatment of mental health? Remember, mental illness isn’t a crime. But if you get charged with a crime because of your mental health, it falls onto a criminal institution to provide treatment. As a result, the Detention Center has become the largest mental health treatment facility in the county.”

As part of the effort to change that, Yavapai County has joined with 316 other counties in states around the country in support of the Stepping Up Initiative. It’s a joint effort on the part of the National Association of Counties, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, which are trying to advance counties’ efforts to reduce the number of adults with mental and co-occurring substance use disorders in jails.

The initiative has a six-point plan to combat the problem

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