Hospitals, Not Jail, for the Mentally Ill

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You know Colorado has a serious problem taking care of people experiencing a mental health emergency when the legislature passes a bill to extend the period they can be involuntarily warehoused in a jail.

And yet that’s basically what Senate Bill 169 does — in a deeply disturbing sign of this state’s neglect of the mentally ill.

It’s also a bill that Gov. John Hickenlooper should consider vetoing out of concern for the due process rights of the afflicted.

The bill had broad bipartisan support and we’re sure its sponsors no more want to see the mentally ill mistreated than we do. And their legislation is honest, too: It states at the outset that “Colorado currently lacks adequate resources to appropriately care for some individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis or psychiatric emergency.” But it’s not clear this bill will help those in crisis. Indeed, in some cases it could exacerbate their plight.

Jails are simply no place to routinely hold the mentally ill who are not charged with a crime.

Under ideal conditions, someone detained during a mental health crisis will be taken to a designated facility where appropriate evaluation and treatment can occur. The facility will respect patient rights, adhere to the proper standard of care and comply with relevant laws.

*Graphic from Vera Institute of Justice report



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