Bills help mentally ill with treatment, not jail time

 Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed legislation last week to facilitate more treatment options for people suffering from mental illness.

Senate Bill 558 requires county law enforcement and community mental health service programs, in coordination with courts and other key local partners, to create policies and practices that would provide mental health treatment and assistance to individuals with mental illness.
Specifically, the policies and practices created would focus on individuals who are considered at risk of:
• Entering the criminal justice system;
• Not receiving needed mental health services during incarceration in a county jail;
• Not receiving needed mental health treatment services upon release or discharge from a county jail, and
• Being committed to the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections.
A companion measure, SB 557, grants funding flexibility for local community mental health service programs to provide mental health services to the in-jail population.
The legislation complements the work of the Mental Health Diversion Council, which Calley chairs. The council, housed within the Department of Community Health, adopted an action plan with steps to ensure that offenders with mental health or substance use disorders receive appropriate treatment rather than jail time. Calley also chairs the Michigan Mental Health and Wellness Commission.
A significant percentage of individuals in Michigan’s criminal justice system suffer from either undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues. While the Department of Corrections provides mental health services to these individuals, at the county level, mental health services are often provided on a limited basis and without a comprehensive treatment option. These new diversion procedures will help address the problem earlier.

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