Mental health in America – Part 1: States with least access to mental health care report highest rate of incarceration

Mental health in America – Part 1: States with least access to mental health care report highest rate of incarceration

Mental illnesses in a person might be accompanied with some form of substance abuse in order to cope with the mental problem. Due to the complexity of co-occurring disorders, there is a high probability for people with mental health problems to be confronted by the police or law enforcement agencies instead of receiving medical help. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), roughly 15 percent men and 30 percent women with serious mental health conditions are booked into jail. Subsequently, 2 million people with mental illnesses sit in jail and prison every year.

The greater number of such individuals are not violent criminals. They often get entangled in the criminal justice system for low-level offenses like jaywalking, misconduct or trespassing. Additionally, most of these individuals keep waiting for their trial. Many others are serving short sentences for minor crimes.

States with highest rates of incarceration

Mental Health America (MHA), a leading community-based nonprofit in the U.S. highlighted facts from The Sentencing Project, 2015 that compared state-by-state rates of incarceration and the access to mental health care in those states. It provided evidence for the direct relationship between the number of adults who were in the criminal justice system and the lack of mental health facilities in those states. Given below are six out of 10 states that highlighted the same-

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi
  • Texas
  • Georgia
  • Florida

MHA also highlighted that there are over 57,000 people with mental health conditions in prisons and jails in Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama and they are enough to fill Madison Square Garden three times over. Moreover, it is speculated that more than half the Americans in prison or jail have a mental illness.

Individuals with mental illnesses in Criminal Justice System

When these individuals are transferred to jails, many of them cease to receive the treatment that they need which worsens their condition. Some of them may have to stay longer compared to those who do not have any mental health conditions. They are also subjected to victimization that can further deteriorate their condition.

After the serving time, these individuals usually lose their health insurance benefits and services. The fact that they have a criminal record is a big trouble. They are unable to get a loan, job or apply for housing. Without access to mental health care and social support, many of these individuals find themselves homeless, end up on the streets or in the emergency rooms and are repeatedly arrested. Approximately, 83 percent of the inmates do not receive or have access to treatment for their mental health conditions.

Many argue that imprisoning individuals with mental illnesses does not ensure public safety as it only ignores those in need of treatment. It is a huge financial burden on the state. The cost benefits of correctional expenses from the state and local budget could be used to invest in intervention programs that can safeguard valuable public resources in the long run.

Care not incarceration can help

Inmates who receive mental health care services while serving in jails may lose access to them outside prisons. They may be unable to procure their medications. Community-based programs and other supports like sufficient insurance coverage before returning to the community can help in their recovery.

If you or a loved one is struggling with any symptoms of mental problems, it is imperative to seek help. Contact the Mental Health Recovery Texas to avail the best mental health disorders treatment in Texas. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-596-4708 or chat online with our medical advisors to get assistance in locating the best mental health treatment centers in Texas. One should not delay the treatment or it can worsen the situation.

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