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Jail diversion program for the mentally ill could save Baton Rouge taxpayers big bucks

Posted on 08-18-15 in Mental Health

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A financial report commissioned by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation shows that opening a treatment center for the mentally ill could save the Baton Rouge taxpayers $55 million over 10 years. The new policy is designed to get criminals who are struggling with mental health disorders out of prisons and into treatment facilities.

The report was prepared by economist M. Ray Perryman, founder of the Perryman Group in Waco, Texas. Perryman based this report on a mental health care facility in San Antonio, Texas, which was considered to be an effective model across the country. He said that he used data from this facility and scaled it to fit the city of Baton Rouge by adjusting data, such as the inmate population, residential population and the rate of incidences occurring with mentally ill people, to create an operations budget for the program.

This proposed mental health treatment facility would serve as safe place for people the mentally ill to receive the treatment that they need rather than face incarceration, which has shown to serve little benefit. Incarcerating the mentally ill not only forgoes essential mental health care for inmates, but also contributes to prison overpopulation as well as inmate medical care and judicial costs.

Perryman’s report found that the local government would potentially save $3 million in the first year and then $8.1 million each year following the program’s implementation. He also reported that this program will indirectly prompt improvements in job availability, prevent homelessness and improve mental health care in the community for a total savings of $15.9 million in the program’s first year. Over a ten-year period, Perryman predicts that these indirect savings could total up to $289 million.

A committee of health care industry leaders met earlier this month to outline the operational and service needs of a proposed 24-hour mental health facility for people with mental health disorders and problems with addiction. It will be called the Recovery and Empowerment Center (REC). Committee leader, Jan Kasofsky, an executive director of the Capital Area Human Services District, said that the committee almost completely ruled against the need to build a brand new facility. Instead, they are interested in finding locations that can be renovated. Kasofsky has also stated that 3,400 people were treated at the Earl K. Long Medical Center, which was closed in 2013 and was the area’s only mental health emergency unit. She also noted that none of those people were sent to jail.

Mental health disorders are serious conditions that normally require a high level of care, which the criminal justice system is often incapable of providing. Treatment centers like those provided by Sovereign Health Group can assist in managing mental health issues. We offer inpatient and outpatient treatment options for patients dealing with drug addiction, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis. If you know someone who struggling with a mental illness and is in need of mental health treatment, please do not hesitate to call. You may contact us at 888-530-4614. Our admissions line is open 24/7 and one of or treatment specialists will assist you in finding the right treatment option for you.

Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer