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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

An article published by the Great Bend Tribune brought attention to a problem that is occurring nationwide. It involves a crisis team looking into jail overcrowding due to the wrong placement and conviction of people with mental health issues. They are not criminals but often jailed for minor offenses which creates overcrowding. Instead of being sent to a mental health treatment center or being provided resources to help with their mental issues, they sit in jail. Some are brought in on minor charges such as disturbing the public or being in places they were asked to leave from. They have not necessarily committed a crime but still are sent to jail until they can be transferred somewhere if need be or released. This problem has been brought to the attention of many in the county of Great Bend and a conference is being held at The Center for Counseling and Consultation to talk about solving the issue of overcrowding related to mental health issues.

Dr. Tom Bauer, MD, a retired internist, and Julie Kramp, executive director at The Center, have brought people together to create a solution for this growing problem. “We’re trying to put together a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) for Barton and hopefully surrounding counties” says Kramp. With this team they are hoping it will help reduce the estimated 10% of jail populations that are not supposed to be in jail due to mental health issues. The team will take on offenders struggling with mental health issues and properly place them where need be, instead of keeping them in jail and using up limited resources. With this large of a percentage being in jail for the wrong reasons it is causing a backup for release and overcrowding in facilities. Now more than two dozen community leaders are involved in creating the Great Bend/Barton Crisis Intervention Task Force and they are hopeful they will bring about this necessary change to keep people struggling with mental illness out of jail and placing them in the right facility they need. 

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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States (46.6 million) suffer from a mental illness in a given year. In the jail population, this is even more prevalent, as these people are not receiving the care they need. There is an estimated 2 million mentally ill individuals being booked into jails each year. The jail population is five times more likely than the general population to experience a serious mental illness and eight times more likely to suffer from substance abuse. A staggering 68% of the jail population has a diagnosable substance abuse disorder, however many of them do not receive the proper treatment they require.

Jails are not conducive to treating these serious illnesses and addictions. Within two weeks after being released, those with serious substance abuse are 40 times more likely to die from an overdose than those in the general population. Instead of incarcerating these people struggling with mental health and substance abuse disorders, public health options should be available for adequate treatment. Evidence-based substance abuse treatment and medical care has been proven to prevent criminal justice involvement at all. Access to essential treatment for substance abuse has been proven to reduce violent and financially motivated crimes.

Many reforms are being implemented by counties across the country to ensure that those with substance abuse disorders and mental health illnesses are provided proper care and preventative programs. Crisis intervention teams are programs that are designed to divert those with mental illnesses from the criminal justice system and into proper treatment. A group of police officers partake in special health training in order to properly evaluate the signs of a mental illness, treat the individual, and deescalate situations. This program is proving to be very effective in helping those with mental health disorders to receive treatment rather than jail time. Police mental health co-responder teams are also proving to be effective. Rather than the police being specifically trained, mental health professionals assist the police while they are interacting with someone showing signs of a mental health crisis.

There is also the option to establish mental health and drug courts that can serve as an alternative to incarceration. Multidisciplinary teams of judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, social workers, and professional mental health service providers work together in specialized courts to assist individuals in treatment and connect them with the proper services.

TRACKtech can provide individuals dealing with substance abuse and mental illness in a multitude of ways. There is an array of behavioral assessments available through the TRACKphoneLite app and the TRACKphone, and rehabilitative support can be specifically targeted to best suit the program member. The program member can also be assisted in finding local community support groups or rehabilitative services. By utilizing this automated rehabilitation platform, therapy expenses can be reduced by nearly 50%.

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