County jails in our state and nation face increasingly daunting tasks in carrying out their challenging multi-pronged mandates to house, feed, punish, rehabilitate and educate the more than 10 million inmates that check into their facilities annually.
One often overlooked yet growing challenge many short-term correctional facilities struggle to adequately meet is their responsibility to offer treatment to the soaring population of inmates with any of a variety of mental illnesses. In many respects, today’s local and county police and jailers have morphed into de facto primary caretakers for the mentally ill and drug-dependent.
Fortunately, help is at hand to slow down that fast-moving revolving door.
A 3-year-old program called Stepping Up, a national initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails, is making strong inroads.
Stepping Up, for which former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton serves as Ohio director, has partnered with 418 counties in the nation — including Mahoning — to implement and help fund action plans to broaden services offered to jails’ mentally-ill population.
Elsewhere, state and federal governments have recognized the value of heightened mental-health care in jails by expanding grant and other funding opportunities. In addition, local mental-health courts that provide long-term treatment continue to produce success stories.
To do nothing is irresponsible and dangerous. Without intense intervention strategies, the lose-lose cycle will drag on. Mentally ill inmates will not get the help they need to turn their lives around, and communities will not escape the unseemly criminal side of untreated mental illness that too often threatens public health and safety.
This editorial was written by the staff of the Youngstown Vindictor. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.
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