When Congress readjourns after the holidays, those of you interested in following legislation may want to watch for Senate Bill 2304 (H.R. 3992), the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 2007.
This is a bill which provides for the training of law enforcement and campus security, to help them identify and respond to incidents involving mentally ill people and for the development of receiving centers for the assessment of people in custody. It extends funding for the development of mental health courts. It also authorizes a survey of people on parole or probation, or in jail or prison, in order to determine how many suffer from serious mental illness and may be eligible for SSI, SSDI or medical assistance.
The House version of the bill made reference to providing grants to help correctional facilities screen for mental illness and treat mentally ill offenders while they were incarcerated, but I didn't see any language specific for this in the text of the bill. Hopefully this will actually be included. Usually when it comes to appropriating money for forensic patients, the money goes to free society interventions and completely ignores the fact that they still have treatment needs when they're locked up. I'd really like to see some serious funding set aside to look at the best care delivery methods in institutions and ways to transition that care back into the community. Right now the only way anyone pays attention to this is when a correctional system is sued for deficiencies; then loads of taxpayer money gets spend figuring out what needs to be fixed. I think a proactive approach might be a bit more cost effective.
Then again, maybe I'm just guilty of attempted common sense. It wouldn't be the first time.