Six Questions County Leaders Need to Ask
by Risë Haneberg, Dr. Tony Fabelo, Dr. Fred Osher, and Michael Thompson
Not long ago the observation that the Los Angeles County Jail serves more people with mental illnesses than any single mental health facility in the United States elicited gasps among elected officials. Today, most county leaders are quick to point out that the large number of people with mental illnesses in their jails is nothing short of a public health crisis, and doing something about it is a top priority.
Over the past decade, police, judges, corrections administrators, public defenders, prosecutors, community-based service providers, and advocates have mobilized to better respond to people with mental illnesses. Most large urban counties, and many smaller counties, have created specialized police response programs, established programs to divert people with mental illnesses charged with low-level crimes from the justice system, launched specialized courts to meet the unique needs of defendants with mental illnesses, and embedded mental health professionals in the jail to improve the likelihood that people with mental illnesses are connected to community-based services.