Mental illness often worsens in a jail or prison setting.
People with Severe Mental Illness (SMI) need treatment in a quality mental health facility or residential treatment center—NOT INCARCERATION—for minor, non-violent crimes.
Diversion programs, especially those that use Certified Peer Recovery Specialists (CPRS) (also known as Peer Recovery Coaches), have been proven to work by reducing the rate of recidivism and overall costs for court and jail time.
Trespassing (a misdemeanor) is the Number 1 reason for people with untreated Serious Mental Illness (SMI) to be arrested.
Punishments such as isolation, solitary confinement, and removal of visitation or other rights, often cause an inmate’s mental illness to worsen, often requiring costly hospitalization.
FLMHAC supports County Behavioral Health Task Forces to bring together vested Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health parties and county leaders to collaborate on ways to reduce the number of people in jails with serious mental illness and the amount of time they stay there. To this end, FMHAC supports the national Stepping Up Initiative: https://stepuptogether.org/.
In 2020, the Miami-Dade County Commission adopted a resolution to study the CAHOOTS crisis-intervention model. CAHOOTS, Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets, uses trained behavioral health crisis workers, to respond to 911 calls that have a strong mental health component. CAHOOTS has been effective for over 30 years. In 2019, they responded to over 24,000 calls and required police backup only 150 times. No one was harmed.
Law enforcement and behavioral health leaders in St. Petersburg, Florida recently (2020) collaborated and agreed to hire more behavioral health crisis workers instead of police to respond to mental health crises.