Community-Based Supports Are Essential to Better Address Behavioral Health Needs and Reduce Incarceration

Urban Insitute reports that millions of people across the United States live with a mental illness and/or substance use disorder. These conditions, commonly known as behavioral health (BH) disorders, affect a disproportionate number of people involved in the criminal justice system. More than half of people in prison and more than two-thirds of people in jail have or have had a mental health problem, and more than half of people serving prison sentences and nearly two-thirds of people serving jail sentences met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse. Prisons and jails are often unequipped to provide the necessary treatment, services, and care to address BH needs. In fact, BH disorders often worsen while people are incarcerated, and people also have trouble accessing services upon release. This increases formerly incarcerated people’s risk of hospitalization, emergency room use, and, ultimately, reincarceration. Investing in community-based supports and eliminating barriers to accessing services are critical to decreasing the US’s reliance on prisons and jails for addressing BH needs. #mentalhealth

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