Mental Health Awareness Month and our Communities: Fighting Stigma and Overincarceration
The number of incarcerated people in the United States with mental illness is inexcusably high. By some estimates, close to 50 percent of those in federal and state prisons are in need of mental health treatment, making the criminal legal system the de facto provider of such treatment for millions of people—even though it is not designed or equipped to address their needs.
Everyone who needs mental health services deserves access to quality, humane treatment. At the Center for Court Innovation, we believe the ideal time to provide support is before people encounter the legal system—and, if they do come into contact with the system, to provide alternatives to incarceration that divert people into treatment in the community. Through our community- and court-based programs, we seek to expand access to resources—including voluntary treatment and services—to break down the stigma of a mental health diagnosis.
Community First helps address the immediate needs of those who are unhoused in the Times Square area, while Supervised Release encourages voluntary engagement with services. The Brooklyn Mental Health Court and Manhattan Felony Alternative to Incarceration Court offer an alternative to jail for those charged with felonies, allowing them to remain in the community with intensive support and monitoring. Nationally, our experts work with courts and communities to improve outcomes. For instance, we helped develop an L.A.-based diversion program that provides a pathway for individuals with behavioral health conditions to enter treatment to have their cases dismissed.
Supporting mental health means promoting human dignity, helping folks meet basic needs, and addressing everything from stress, trauma, and grief to anxiety, depression, and serious mental illnesses. Our teams focus on building relationships with participants and collaborating with them in the development of treatment plans in order to make every contact meaningful and supportive.
Next week, we’ll tell you more about our work at the intersection of mental health and the justice system. For more related to Mental Health Awareness Month, follow us on Twitter.