NAMI Applauds U.S. Senator Cornyn's Bill to Reduce Incarceration of People with Mental Illness

Aug 06 2015

ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 5, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement by NAMI Executive Director,Mary Giliberti:

This morning, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the "Mental Health and Safe Communities Act," a bill designed to prevent unnecessary incarceration of people with mental illness and enhance treatment and services for individuals while they are in correctional facilities and following release. The bill directs federal resources to be used for programs with proven effectiveness such as Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs, Mental Health Courts, Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) programs and other evidence-based approaches. 

NAMI praises Sen. Cornyn for his support of more effective and humane responses to people with mental illness. Every day, NAMI receives calls and pleas from individuals and families caught in the revolving door of a system that is clearly broken. Jails and prisons in the U.S. are today being used as substitute mental health treatment facilities.

At NAMI, we know that this national tragedy is both costly and unjust. We would never tolerate the use of jails and prisons as a default treatment system for any other medical conditions.  It is estimated that 2 million people with serious mental illness are admitted to local jails each year. Most of these individuals are not violent criminals but have committed low level offenses directly related to lack of mental health services and supports. With appropriate services, including assertive community treatment, supportive housing, assistance with employment and peer supports, many of these individuals can recover and live productive lives in the community. 

We are grateful to Sen. Cornyn for his leadership in seeking a better, more humane way to respond to the needs of people with mental illness.

NAMI looks forward to working with Sen. Cornyn and other leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives to advance this important legislation.