Mental Health Cops Patrol Oregon Streets
By Paul Johnson
Portland, Oregon (CNN) - Police in Portland, Oregon have a program to identify and help people with mental illnesses. An officer teams up with a social worker and they hit the streets as sort of a mobile crisis unit. On Friday, Officer Bret Burton and his partner were searching for a man who was released from the state mental hospital. They were afraid he wasn't getting the help he needs. This program is the direct result of a 2006 case. Burton was one of several officers who tackled a man running from them. That man died in police custody and it was later learned he was schizophrenic.
By Melissa Keeney
SPARTANBURG, S.C. --At the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, office in Spartanburg, Rose Tutzauer DeCampbell counsels those coping with mental illness. "It's an ongoing struggle, it's constant," DeCampbell says. She understands the pain, because she battles it herself. DeCampbell has struggled with a personality disorder for years. "When I go through mood swings, it's hard for me to engage, I don't want to leave my room," she says.
Luckily, DeCampbell has help. But she says, too often, many with mental illnesses do not, and end up in jail instead.
Spartanburg Detention Center director Major Neal Urch sees the problem first hand. Right now, Urch says 80% of his maximum security inmates have some sort of mental illness. Urch believes most don't belong behind bars, but instead a place where they can get help for their condition.
Urch, along with Spartanburg County's clerk of court, are pushing to establish a mental health court in the county to deal with the problem. Leaders are currently in the process of filing for a federal grant to pay for the program.
It's a program that Greenville County has had in place for seven years. Probate Judge Debora Faulkner was part of a group that helped establish it. "We saw a huge need," Faulkner says. Many times, Faulkner says a patient with a mental illness would go off their medication, and end up committing a misdemeanor crime, and continue to cycle through the court system.
"They're on a merry go round, and this stops that," she says. Participants in the program are considered "non-violent" offenders, so violent crimes do not apply to the program. People are usually referred by a doctor, judge or family member. Instead of jail time, they commit to an intensive treatment program and weekly court sessions with a judge to monitor their progress. "We have seen people 40 years old get their very first paychecks. We've seen someone who graduated from the program and has now gotten their masters degree in counseling, we've seen numerous people get their GED's and stop that cycle," Faulkner says.
Dozens graduate from the Greenville program each year. According to Faulkner, the success is also saving taxpayer dollars.
Urch says they're a long way from getting the court in Spartanburg, but he's hopeful. "We can do something about fixing this."
DeCampbell believes it's a great idea.
By Editorial Board
Washington Post, Feb 16, 2013
... According to a 2011 study from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, 60 percent of Americans and 70 percent of U.S. children suffering from mental illness aren’t getting treatment. ...