Sen. Johanns Introduces Legislation to Improve Mental Health Laws for Criminals


U.S.Sen. Mike Johanns, along with a bipartisan group of 16 Senators,introduced legislation Monday to reauthorize and improve current mental health laws dealing with thetreatment of criminals suspected of mental illness.

"Ourlaw enforcement professionals are often on the front lines when it comes toidentifying and interacting with the mentally ill," Johanns said. "The goal ofthis legislation is to help law enforcement ensure incarcerated people withmental illnesses receive the services they need. In doing so, we can helpprevent future violent actions and give our officers more time to do theirprimary job of protecting our communities."

Thepresident of the Major Counties Sheriffs Association recently estimated that asmany as 30 percent of inmates under his supervision are suffering from mentalhealth conditions. The former executive director of the National SheriffsAssociation echoed that concern saying in many areas, "the county's jails holdmore people with severe psychiatric illnesses than any psychiatric facility inthe county."

The Justice & Mental Health Collaboration Act reauthorizes and improves current law known as the Mentally Ill OffenderTreatment and Crime Reduction Act, which passed in 2004. Keyprovisions in the act will:

  • Continuesupport for mental health courts and crisis intervention teams, both of whichsave lives and money;
  • Wiselydirect grant funds to prioritize programs proven effective;
  • Supportthe development of curricula for police academies and orientations to helpofficers identify the warning signs of inmates with mental illness;
  • Increasefocus on corrections-based programs, like transitional services that reducerecidivism rates and screening practices that identify inmates with mentalhealth conditions; and
  • Cutsfederal red tape to give local officials greater control over an inmate'senrollment in mental health programs.

Courtesy- Sen. Mike Johanns