Decriminalizing Mental Illness
People with mental illnesses who break minor laws, such as disturbing the peace, end up in jail or the emergency room. Baton Rouge is not alone. Mental health services across the country have been cut, making jails our nation's de facto asylums.
But some places have found a solution that also saves tax money. In those cities, police divert people with mental illness or substance abuse problems to appropriate treatment. Getting care reduces the overall costs, as therapies are less expensive than emergency room treatment or jail time; and police are freed up to do return to their beats.
Noticing the success of diversion centers, the Foundation convened public security and behavioral health experts to devise a strategy for an EBR mental health treatment center. Health Management Associates was hired to write the plan.
Mayor Kip Holden, District Attorney Hillar Moore, EBR Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, Police Chief Carl Dabadie, EBR Coroner Beau Clark, psychiatrists, counselors and social workers have worked together for nearly two years to reach this point. Together, we are pursuing opening the center in 2018.