I-News "Untreated: In Jails, Steep Costs for Mental Illnesses"

May 14, 2014

I-News Network investigative reporter Kristin Jones visited "First Take with Lando and Chavis" to discuss her series of reports on the costs of failing to treat mental illness in Colorado. 

Credit Joe Mahoney / I-News Network


Jones writes: "As a shortage of funding has depleted options for those in need of treatment for mental illnesses, there’s still one place that can’t say no: Jail. Inpatient psychiatric beds have dwindled to 1,093 for the state’s entire population, according to state human services data, a decrease of 20 percent from five years ago.  People with mental illnesses are more than five times as likely to wind up in jail or prison. "

When it comes to putting violent prisoners in solitary confinement, Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor told Jones, "“These people don’t need to be in jail.  They need to be in a therapeutic community.”

Solutions to the broad, complex and expensive issue include a recent state bill banning long-term solitary confinement for the mentally ill, "Moral Reconation Therapy," remodeling jails (as in Boulder County), mental health "wellness" courts, and enrolling inmates for health insurance.  Meanwhile, the state's planned network of crisis centers remains on hold pending a lawsuit.

The full series of reports, called "Untreated," is available at www.rmpbs.org/untreated.