"On March 6, 2008, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee passed S. 2304, the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act (MIOTCRA). The legislation, introduced last year by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), will now be sent to the Senate floor for consideration.
The bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in January with overwhelming bipartisan support, will help provide states and counties with the resources needed to design and implement collaborative efforts between the criminal justice and mental health systems. The legislation offers grants to communities to develop diversion programs, mental health treatments in jails and prisons, and transition and aftercare services to facilitate reentry into the community. The bill also provides for the cross-training of criminal justice, law enforcement and mental health personnel.
With bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, the legislation will raise the authorization level of MIOTCRA from $50 million per year to $75 million per year and will extend the authorization through 2014. The bill will also reauthorize the Mental Health Courts grant program (Public Law 106-515) and will require that a study be conducted on the prevalence of mental illness in prisons and jails."
More information is available from the Consensus Project.
And last week, the U.S. Senate passed the Second Chance Act (H.R. 1593) by unanimous consent. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation last fall. The legislation would provide transitional assistance to ex-offenders in an effort to reduce a return to alcohol abuse. Additionally, the legislation would extend and provide a full continuum of care for treatment of substance use disorders and improve mental health screening and treatment.
"It is a national tragedy that jails and prisons have become the primary mental health care facilities in the United States today," said American Psychiatric Association President Carolyn Robinowitz, M.D. "This bi-partisan action represents significant steps forward in improving access to mental health services and substance abuse treatment programs for those incarcerated within the prison system."
Read the press release issued by the American Psychiatric Association.