MOSES and other organizations have fought persistently for the right of people with mental illness to be treated in the community instead of being incarcerated.
County Executive Parisi seems to have heard the words. He includes a focus on jail alternatives and re-entry services in his most recent budget proposals concerning the Dane County Jail. But, the meaning remains elusive. Most of the new funding would go to the criminal justice system.
Here are some of the highlights from Parisi’s proposal, as reported in the Wisconsin State Journal (10/1). Click here to read the article.
His budget proposal would reduce the total number of beds by 91 which, according to him, “illustrates our commitment to alternatives and services to avoid re-incarceration.”
The new jail would have 64 mental health beds. It currently has none, resulting in solitary confinement for inmates with mental health problems. According to Sheriff Mahoney, the proposed space “will allow us to virtually eliminate solitary confinement.”
The budget includes $110,000 for re-entry case management services that would provide peer support counselors to help inmates transition back into the community and offer help finding housing, mental health or substance abuse treatment services.
The budget also contains $68,000 to hire someone to coordinate the Dane County Re-Entry Team, which is made up of staff from the Sheriff’s Office and Dane County Human Services.
Sheriff Mahoney’s budget includes $1.1 million for re-entry and diversion staff and programming. That staff would work with the team in the community (budgeted at $110,000) to provide a “seamless handoff” as inmates leave jail.
The budget also provides: $100,000 for a comprehensive review of local mental health resources to identify gaps in services and barriers to access; $100,000 to keep Safe Haven open, and $15,000 to NAMI-Dane to expand its crisis intervention training course for police, public safety and medical personnel.
The math does not compute for anyone who wants more community treatment and less jail time for people with mental illness. Sheriff Mahoney gains more than $1 million for diversion and programming. An unspecified community team is budgeted at about 1/10 that amount for re-entry case management services. That team is responsible for assisting inmates find mental health services and other help. Those services receive a zero increase.
ANOTHER LOOK AT THE BUDGET: Here is hopeful language from Parisi’s budget statement concerning the crisis restoration center.
” Recently, there’s been discussion about the feasibility of a Mental Health Crisis Restoration Facility to further our community’s response to mental illness. Done in the context of a more thorough examination of available mental health resources in our community, this concept is worth exploring. A comprehensive review of existing mental health services and potential gaps in services would identify how such a facility could be operated in partnership with health care providers and community organizations. It could also shed appropriate focus on the need for all entities – including our health care providers – to reexamine how current mental health services are accessed and administered. There is room to do better. My budget includes $100,000 for a comprehensive review of existing mental health services in our community. This work will both identify potential gaps while evaluating how a potential Crisis Restoration Center or similar community run facility could help improve care and outcomes.”