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WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) today warned the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that criminalization of people living with mental illness has reached "crisis proportions" and called for support of federal, state and local reforms to overcome failings in both the mental health care and criminal justice systems.
In written testimony submitted to a committee hearing on "Breaking the Cycle: Mental Health and the Justice System," NAMI Senior Policy Advisor Ronald S. Honberg presented NAMI's support of S.2002, the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act, introduced by Senator John Cornyn of Texas.
Approximately 20% of all federal and state prisoners have serious mental illness. An estimated two million are admitted to jails each year. Incarceration usually leads to worsening of psychiatric symptoms. In jails, the cost of providing care for adults with mental illness is two to three times greater than that for other inmates. It costs less to put non-violent individuals with mental illness into treatment than to put them in jail. Diversion is both cost effective and humane.
NAMI emphasized its strong support for several initiatives reflected in S. 2002, including:
In addition, NAMI declared, federal action "will yield significant benefits through reduced recidivism, enhanced public safety, and most importantly, giving people chances to recover and lead meaningful, productive lives."
Honberg noted the importance of "never giving up on people." NAMI's members include many who were once involved with criminal justice systems and are now in recovery leading productive lives as contributing members of society.
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
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