No Room in the Inn, the Hospital or Even the Jail
Recent news from New Jersey, Alabama and Ohio perfectly illustrates the imperfect storm battering the nation's population of individuals with untreated severe mental illnesses and underscores why the need for states to pass or use their assisted outpatient treatment laws grows more urgent by the day.
In New Jersey, former Gov. Richard Codey reprised his performance as an undercover investigator and posed as a homeless man with mental illness seeking shelter in Newark. More than 20 shelters told him they don't accept residents with mental illness. For the mentally ill in Newark, there is no room in the inn.
In Alabama, the state mental health department has announced it will be shutting down its state hospitals to everyone but individuals charged with crimes and some senior citizens and transferring patients to community centers that don't happen to exist. For the mentally ill in Alabama, there will be no room in the hospital.
And in Ohio, Sheriff Drew Alexander is so disgusted with the use of his county jail as a dumping ground (his term) for people who are mentally ill and violent, that hes announced the jail will no longer accept them until after they've undergone a psychiatric evaluation in a medical facility. For some arrestees who are mentally ill in Summit County, there is no room even in the jail.
Nobody should have to live in a homeless shelter, hospital or jail cell. For individuals with severe mental illness, there's a humane and cost-effective alternative: treatment for the symptoms that land them there in the first place. The people most likely to end up on the streets, in ERs and hospitals or behind bars are typically the same ones who meet the strict state criteria for court-ordered treatment in the community.
As more doors slam shut on those with mental illness, the use of assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) to provide society's most vulnerable members with a path to stability and productivity becomes more critically needed. Please visit Get Involved today to learn how you can support treatment law reform and implementation and help provide shelter from the storm to those who can't seek it themselves.