Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Long-Term Solutions to the Overincarceration of People With Mental Health Disabilities 
Press Release

RELEASE: Long-Term Solutions to the Overincarceration of People With Mental Health Disabilities 

Washington, D.C. — Every year, more than 2 million people with serious mental illnesses are booked into jail. The overpolicing of people with mental health disabilities has driven these disparate incarceration rates, concerning advocates, researchers, and policymakers as the United States faces an escalating mental health crisis. A new Center for American Progress issue brief discusses the history and causes of overpolicing of people with mental health disabilities and provides recommendations for federal and state governments to create long-term solutions.

Recommendations for preventing mental health crises and enabling long-term treatment include:

  • Increase funding for wraparound services. Congress must increase funding to support wraparound services such as Assertive Community Treatment programs, which provide case management, treatment, medication management, and other supports to enable people to continue living at home rather than in institutionalized care.
  • Reduce administrative burdens and eliminate barriers to safety net programs. Administrative burdens such as complex eligibility requirements and periodic check-ins negatively affect disabled people’s ability to obtain and maintain essential services and supports, costing them time, money, and energy. Reducing these burdens of accessing programs such as Medicaid will make it easier for people with mental health disabilities to obtain treatment and other services.
  • Increase the availability of employment services. Individuals with chronic mental health disabilities are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed than their peers without mental health disabilities. Federal policymakers must fund evidence-based employment models, such as individual placement and support, that help individuals with mental health disabilities obtain and maintain partial or full-time employment.

“Approximately 2 million people with mental health disabilities will continue to be arrested yearly unless government undertakes longer-term change,” said Mia Ives-Rublee, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at CAP and co-author of the issue brief. “Policymakers at the federal and state levels must focus on long-term structural changes to reduce the negative interactions of people with mental health disabilities with police.”

Read the issue brief: Long-Term Solutions to the Overincarceration of People With Mental Health Disabilities” by Mia Ives-Rublee and Christina Stafford.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Julia Cusick at jcusick@americanprogress.org.

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