Jail More Likely Than Treatment For Americans With Psychiatric Disorders
Americans with severe mental illness are three times more likely to go to prison than to a psychiatric hospital, new research indicates.
While the likelihood varies by state, there is no state where individuals experiencing diagnoses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are more likely to be in a psychiatric hospital than a jail, the findings from a new report conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association indicate.
The best case scenario appears to be in North Dakota where the odds are one to one that a person with mental illness will be in prison or a psychiatric hospital. In contrast, Arizona and Nevada each host 10 times more people with mental illness in their jails than in psychiatric facilities.
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What’s more, states that spent less on mental health care services had more individuals with mental illness in their jails, according to the report.
“America’s jails and prisons have once again become our mental hospitals,” said James Pavle, executive director at the Treatment Advocacy Center, which promotes treatment for those with mental illness. “With minimal exception, incarceration has replaced hospitalization for thousands of individuals in every single state.”
The findings are based on 2004 and 2005 data from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice and represent a trend that’s ticking upward, the study authors say. They point to recent reports indicating that 16 percent of inmates have mental illness today compared with 6.4 percent in 1983.
One reason for the trend might be that beds in psychiatric hospitals are increasingly hard to come by. On average, the report indicates there is one bed for every 3,000 Americans.