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Mental health treatment continues to be major concern

A major concern of jails across the country is providing treatment for those who are mentally ill or have what is known as a co-occurring disorder. In Wayne County - home to the state's largest jail - there were 3,708 admissions into jail-based mental health services between Oct. 1, 2013, and July 31, 2014. Each year, more than 2 million adults with mental illnesses are admitted to jails across the country, many with substance-abuse disorders.

It is an issue that costs Wayne County a great deal in both money and the amount of staff time. Based on recent figures, the cost to house an individual in the Wayne County Jail is $145 per day, which amounts to nearly $53,000 per year. Providing community-based mental health services for low-risk mentally-ill offenders would prove a more efficient use of tax dollars than paying for similar care in the jails.

The key is identifying those in need as they enter the jail and form a care plan. It is also important to measure outcomes so we can learn what works and what doesn't, though remembering that each case is different. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the mentally ill receive the proper care they so urgently need and that they don't keep cycling through the justice system.

In October, I introduced a resolution in support of the Stepping Up Initiative, and it was unanimously supported by colleagues on the Wayne County Commission, along with Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans. As an active member of the National Association of Counties (NaCo), I was proud to bring this national initiative to Wayne County. We have a great team assembled to discuss best practices and work with stakeholders to bring about system changes based on data driven strategies.

Together, we can make a difference. 

Sincerely, Alisha Bell