Dec 8, 2007

Shutting door to treatment

Appearing in Friday's Los Angeles Times was a thoughtful, detailed case study of the terrible outcomes that can occur when mental health treatment falls short or does not exist, and the criminal justice system steps in. . .

When those descending into mental illness commit a crime, their chances of getting needed help can dissolve when law enforcement arrives. . .

As the availability of acute inpatient services has diminished, rising numbers of the mentally ill are ending up behind bars. About 350,000 of the country's 2.1 million inmates have been diagnosed with severe mental illness, said Dr. H. Richard Lamb, director of research for the Institute of Mental Health, Law, and Public Policy at USC's Keck School of Medicine.

Some mentally ill people find themselves diagnosed and treated for the first time after being incarcerated. But jails and prisons -- never designed for therapeutic care -- often trigger deeper crises, Lamb said.
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