Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mental Health Cuts Put Officers on Front Lines of Mental Care

This article, from the New York Times, opened my eyes to a crisis that mental health care is facing. The article reports that across the nation there has been a strain on state budget cuts and a weak economy. Law enforcement officers are having to step in to provide emergency services that clinics have traditionally offered the mentally ill. Police departments are grappling with budget and manpower cuts along with straining their resources and forcing officers to divert their focus from their regular duties to spending more time dealing with people with mental illness. Many law enforcement agencies have hired full time mental health experts, some have offered training in crisis intervention training, yet most are afraid of the growing number of occurrences and worry about tragedies. Some agencies are only qualified to lock them up for a time and then return them to the streets where they return to the same behaviors. Many attribute this growth to the fact that there are fewer beds and fewer outpatient services, especially those that treat the uninsured. Laura Usher, the national Crisis Intervention Team coordinator for the National Alliance for Mental Illness says, "States across the country are cutting their mental health budgets, and people who are serviced by state mental health programs are the poorest, and they're unable to get services any other way. The community mental health system is broken." In Illinois, the state budget cut $35 million this year. In Oklahoma, calls to the police involving mental illness have increased by 50 percent and mental health financing has been cut by $17 million. I thought this article to be upsetting. At a time when so much talk has gone into improving health care and the importance of good health care, it never occurred to me that it wouldn't include mental health care as well. It opened my eyes to the bias that still are encountered when considering the necessity of mental health care.

1 comment:

  1. I find this to be very sad actually. I cannot believe that cops are being used as a source of help for mental illness.This is about safety now. People with mental illness are the most vulnerable to harm others or get harmed. If they are not being taking cared of, then who will? Something needs to be done about this.


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