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The number of people with severe mental illnesses incarcerated in jails and prisons is on the rise. Every year, thousands of people with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or manic depression are arrested as a result of behavior stemming from their illness. Most of these men and women would be more effectively and appropriately helped through the provision of mental health services. Nonetheless, many will serve a sentence and, upon release, will be left without access to the services and support critical to breaking the cycle of recidivism.

With the promise of community mental health unfulfilled, far too many of these individuals were caught in a revolving door, leading into and out of the state hospital. Today the revolving door opens into the correctional system. We can change this picture. Clearly, without income (to pay for housing, food and other necessities) and without health care coverage (to ensure access to health and mental health treatment and medications), most will not be able to exit that revolving door.

One important part of any effective solution is to ensure that people with serious mental illnesses are connected with appropriate community agencies as they are released and are enrolled in the federal entitlement programs that are specifically designed to provide the supports they need: federal disability payment programs and health coverage through Medicaid and Medicare. This booklet describes these federal programs' complex and interrelated rules and some options for state and local officials to use them more effectively. It is designed to contribute to the development of a more appropriate system of care for individuals with serious mental illnesses and to reduce recidivism. (Bazelon)
Report
2001
Washington, D.C.
202-467-5730
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A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services