LANSING—Legislation introduced in the Michigan Senate yesterday will provide more treatment options for people suffering from mental illness. The legislation was introduced by Senator Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and is supported by Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley.
“How we view people suffering from mental illness is a major discussion taking place right now around the country,” Schuitmaker said. “Evidence shows that making treatment available to those who would end up in jail is much more effective and reduces costs long term.”
Senate Bill 558 would require county law enforcement and community mental health agencies, in collaboration with courts and other key local resources, to create policies and practices for diverting to treatment persons who are at risk of jail incarceration due to the presence of a serious mental illness.
“Simply locking up people with mental illness does nothing to address the cause of the problem,” Schuitmaker added. “When those folks are released, the illness that led them to break the law is still present.”
Throughout the state, individuals with mental illness are being incarcerated with the general criminal population. A 2009 Attorney General opinion requires counties to provide the costs of mental health services to the jail population, regardless of ability to pay. Senate Bill 557 makes it easier for able and willing community mental health organizations to provide jail mental health service at their own expense.
These jail sentences are costly to taxpayers and, more importantly, do not address the cause of the behavior. This legislation provides law enforcement and mental health agencies more options for providing and funding mental health treatment.
Local officials including prosecutors, sheriff’s departments and mental health professionals are responsible for developing the guidelines for eligibility and administration of the programs, as well as determining treatment options available.