Missouri chief justice calls for action as hundreds await mental health services in jails • Missouri Independent

Missouri chief justice calls for action as hundreds await mental health services in jails • Missouri Independent

number of people languishing in county jail Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Russell told a joint session that pretrial court-ordered mental health treatment is an issue that must be addressed, both for the well-being of inmates and their communities and to ensure justice. The state Legislature meets on Wednesday.

In many counties, jails are the largest local mental health facilities, she said.

“Prisons should be used in the short term to detain people charged with crimes or convicted of misdemeanors,” Russell said in his annual State of the Justice address. “Concrete blocks are not conducive to treating mental health or addiction issues.”

In early March 2023, there will be County jail holds 229 people He was deemed incompetent to stand trial and was ordered by the court to undergo treatment. Val Huhn, director of the Department of Mental Health, said as of this week, the number was 297 and growing. told the House Budget Committee on Monday. “By the end of this year, we will have 500,” she said. “And before we get to 100, it’s probably going to be 1,000.”

285 Missourians in jail awaiting transfer to hospital for mental health services

Under state law, courts should Receive periodic reports Progress regarding people committed to the mental health sector due to incompetence to stand trial. The first report is a six-month assessment.

Russell said a rural Missouri judge told her that an inmate must wait eight months before entering a mental health facility, “creating difficult, if not impossible, conditions for officers trying to control the prison.”

Such waits are not extreme but represent the average amount of time inmates wait at state mental health centers for court-ordered services.

“The longer inmates with mental health issues are detained — without treatment or without being tried for a crime, let alone convicted of a crime — the worse off they become,” Russell said.

During the 2023 legislative session, lawmakers approved $2.5 million to create Prison Capacity Restoration Program Located in St. Louis, St. Louis County, Jackson County, Clay County and Greene County.

Services will include room and board, as well as medical care for 10 people at each jail, contract workers from local behavioral health organizations and psychiatric care from the department’s expanding “mobile team practitioners.”

legislators also $300 million approved Replaces behavioral health center in Kansas City. The new 200-bed hospital will replace an aging facility built in 1966, with 100 beds dedicated to capacity recovery services.

But Hoon said in her budget testimony that the new facility won’t be ready for use for several years.

Her department also requested $3.2 million to build smaller housing units at the St. Louis Forensic Treatment Center to create more space.

She said the new facility would not solve the problem of long wait times for treatment.

“You can’t get me out of this,” Huhn said. “We can’t do that. I’ll never have enough staff to support it.”

Huhn said the department still has significant staffing shortages. More than one-third of nurse practitioner positions are unfilled, two-fifths of psychiatrist positions are unfilled, and less than one-third of licensed clinical social worker positions are unfilled.

“These are categories that we are continually recruiting and working hard to recruit into,” Huhn said.

Russell said in his speech that the problem requires a comprehensive solution that involves “all sectors of government at the state and local levels, as well as the nonprofit and private sectors.”

One measure that would help, she said, would be for lawmakers to provide funding to expand pretrial services so that inmates across the state can be evaluated for potential participation in diversion programs.

“We know the success of these programs is far-reaching,” Russell said, citing examples in Montgomery and Jasper counties where people with substance abuse and behavioral issues are now receiving treatment rather than spending time in jail .

The Justice Department is requesting $10.8 million to hire an additional 152 personnel to provide pretrial services. Gov. Mike Parson did not recommend it in his budget.

State Rep. Scott Cupp, R-Shell Knob, chairman of the budget subcommittee that oversees the judiciary, said Russell’s speech will prompt him to revisit the request.

Coops said the main focus should be on substance abuse and mental health issues.

“We have to make sure that the projects we fund are actually projects that solve real problems,” he said, “and deliver results for us.”

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