Jailing The Mentally Ill

Jun 10 2011 @ 9:48am

James Ridgeway and Jean Casella quote from a new article (pdf) in the New England Journal of Medicine:

The largest facilities housing psychiatric patients in the United States are not hospitals but jails. More than half of inmates have symptoms of a psychiatric disorder as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), and major depression and psychotic disorders are four to eight times as prevalent among inmates as in the general population — yet only 22% of state prisoners and 7% of jail inmates receive mental health treatment while incarcerated.

Last week, Suzy Khimm sized up the mental health system:

Over the past two years, some $1.6 billion has been slashed from non-Medicaid state spending on mental health, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. … According to University of Chicago Professor Harold Pollack, states deliver many mental health and behavioral services outside of Medicaid and are thus freed from federal coverage requirements — as well as matching dollars — making these services a more tempting target for legislators committed to fiscal austerity.