EDITORIAL: Loss of Mental Health Court May be Costly

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By: The Gazette editorial

September 11, 2016 Updated: September 11, 2016 at 8:49 am

Original Article Published on Gazette.com

Much of the homelessness, crime and self-destruction we see in Colorado Springs and throughout the country relates to mental illness, which can be treated and sometimes cured.

The mentally ill are not people we should shun, avoid or shame. They are people who need love, attention and care.

So it was sad last week to see the demise of El Paso County’s Mental Health Court, which helped severely mentally ill defendants avoid incarceration if they chose help for their conditions. Qualifying participants were required to use medications as prescribed and attend weekly interventions with judges, attorneys, probation officers and mental health professionals. Treatment programs helped them obtain housing and employment.

Successes saved individuals and families while sparing the community costs associated with mental illness.

“I believe this saved my son’s life,” said the mother of a Marine who set his apartment building on fire to burn “demons” from his thoughts, as explained in a story by Gazette reporter Lance Benzel.

“I’m just so sad to see that this program is ending. It’s something that works,” the mother said.

The loss of our county’s Mental Health Court probably means more recidivism among convicts who need treatment more than punishment.