Back in the ‘60s, asylums were dis-established, with no real effort to train adequate numbers of mental health specialists to take up the slack. Now, in 44 American states including ours, “the biggest mental health institution is a prison,” and police spend much of their time dealing with the effects of untreated mental illness. We’re not unique. Across Europe, 40 percent to 70 percent of prison inmates are mentally disturbed.
These illnesses require far more than increased numbers of police officers. As health insurance begins to cover mental health care, we will need to hire more social workers and psychologists. Treatment and consultation rooms will be needed as well. Voting in our new 521-bed jail in November becomes an absolute imperative.