Letters to the Editor

Says mental health need shouldn’t stop jail

Jails are not mental hospitals.

Jails have always held people who are mentally ill. But a jail is a short-term correctional facility and not a de facto mental hospital. It’s not structurally appropriate for patients.

Deinstitutionalization of mental hospitals without a corresponding development of community-based mental health services have returned us to the conditions of the 1840s when a higher percentage of mentally ill inmates were incarcerated. The failure to support community-based mental health services has shifted the costs on to our police, courts, jails and prisons.

In a free society we have a moral responsibility to be accountable for our actions. Drugs, alcohol and mental illness are not excuses for committing crimes. Whatcom County Jail inmates are there because probable cause existed to believe they committed a crime.

Mental illness is a social problem. We are all stakeholders in this problem. We want to be safe in our communities. We must problem solve this issue by developing a comprehensive plan to address it. A jail is a poor setting for providing mental health care. We have a critical need now to replace the jail with a facility that will safely house and protect inmates and employees. The proposed jail funding bond is not meant to support a separate mental health treatment center. The jail’s funding must not be diverted or delayed.

Pat Brown