Associations of county officials
have adopted resolutions urging "priority funding" to prevent local jails
from becoming warehouses for the mentally ill.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson
has proposed a budget that includes $5 million for "crisis stabilization centers," but concerns linger about the sufficiency for dealing with people with mental problems apart from the criminal justice system. A recent decision to cut Medicaid funding for mental health treatment centers is predicted to put more people on the street, where their problems will inevitably land them at local jails though a reorganization os this system is promised in July.
Groups representing sheriffs, county judges and quorum court members
adopted the resolutions urging adequate funding for:
* In-jail behavioral health services and crisis services for the mentally ill (including support through use of telemedicine);
* Regional crisis stabilization units (CSU) for the mentally ill throughout the state of Arkansas; and
* Crisis intervention training (CIT) of law enforcement officers throughout the state of Arkansas.
Many needs here and elsewhere identified for the coming legislative session in which pre-session talk has been dominated by the need for tax cuts. Bill filing began yesterday with the second filed
a $13 million tax break in return for a total income tax exemption for military retiree pensions (including reservists and some governmental agencies and their relatives as well). This is Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin's pet project, which justifiably died in 2015.
Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck
was quoted in the news release on the county resolutions.
“The voice of county government has spoken loudly. Sheriffs, county judges, and the quorum court association have all unified and made resolutions to keep the mentally ill out of jails,” said Bill Hollenbeck, Sebastian County sheriff and AAC board member.
“State prisons and county jails should not be the default mental health institutions for the state,” Hollenbeck said. “We are excited to partner with Governor Hutchinson to help save jail space and use them for what they are intended for, incarcerating dangerous criminals. This will save tax dollars for our state, and it is the right thing to do.”
Unfortunately, local law enforcement officials in the state of Arkansas have few options when encountering the mentally ill on the street. Currently, Arkansas law enforcement does not have infrastructure or specialized training to divert these individuals from incarceration to treatment.