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Mentally Ill Arrested Instead of Treated

May 12th, 2014 at 7:00 am

Chicago criminal defense attorney, Crisis Intervention Team, mentally ill, mentally ill arrested, severe mental illness, Urbana police department, Illinois criminal defense, social workers in Illinois, Cook County criminal defense lawyerIt seems that so many of the tragic news stories involving shootings at schools, military bases, and other public arenas often trace back to a perpetrator with a history of some degree of mental illness. Not every person who suffers from a mental disease commits such horrific acts. Likewise, some of those who are diagnosed as mentally ill participate in lesser acts of criminality. However, situations like these beg the question, “How can we more appropriately and properly treat the mentally ill to avoid criminal acts?”

A recent article says there is a sharp incline in the number of mentally ill people who are charged with a crime or otherwise dealt with by law enforcement in situations that would call for social workers or other community resources. This suggests that the answer to the question posed is more pressing that one might think.

Lack of Resources

Across the state of Illinois, the resources that are available to the mentally ill on a community level are on the decline. As a result, much of the burden is shifted to law enforcement, forcing officers into roles they are not necessarily prepared to handle. The numbers speak for themselves. In Urbana, the number of documented police calls regarding those with mental or behavioral problems has tripled in the last two years. This statistic does not take undocumented encounters into account.

Despite the obvious need, the options officers have in dealing with such calls are decreasing in large part due to funding issues. This is causing mental health facilities to close, and community-based resources to be limited. The result is a gap in the system that forces police officers to act as social workers.

Solutions

Urbana’s city council held a session focused on discussing the gaps in the system and providing an overview of the city’s Crisis Intervention Team. The problem was further discussed, with officials stating that of the approximate half a million people in Illinois suffering with a severe mental illness, only about 19 percent of them were provided with services.

While a more permanent and effective solution remains to be implemented, the Urbana police department has trained about 20 of its officers to deal with calls that involve psychological issues as opposed to criminal issues when a crisis intervention officer is not available. Some would like to see that number grow, which would likely go a long way in avoiding a situation where a mentally ill individual is arrested in a situation which would not otherwise call for such action.

Others argue that the training, despite being a step in the right direction, falls significantly shy of solving the problem. Besides the discussion the council meeting started, the point of the meeting was also to highlight the lack of resources and support available to help those with psychological issues. Not only does the lack of funding pose obvious problems for those who suffer from mental illness, but it also poses problems for officers who are forced to deal with the individuals as the result of a call. In those situations, the officer can bring the person to a hospital, bring them to jail, or choose not to act.

Often none of these options are ideal, and legal issues in some cases may prevent a hospital from admitting a person against his or her will. Likewise, incarceration is generally only a short-term solution, since those who are mentally ill will likely engage in the same conduct upon their release in the absence of proper treatment.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Hiring an experienced attorney is highly beneficial to every individual charged with a crime, but especially to those who may have engaged in criminal behavior or been arrested due to mental illness. An attorney can not only protect your rights, but may be able to ensure you are treated appropriately in light of your mental condition. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley in Rolling Meadows today for a consultation.

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