MACo Calls for Inmates to Receive Treatment in More Appropriate Facilities

Natasha Mehu, Legislative Director of MACo, offered testimony to the Judiciary Committee on February 12th in support of HB 306 – Mental Health – Involuntary Admission – Inmates in Correctional Facilities.

This bill’s goal is to address the growing issue of inmates with serious mental illness being held in county jails instead of receiving treatment in appropriate facilities, which would be better suited to provide services needed for individuals who are a danger to themselves and in need of impatient care.

From the MACo testimony:

…HB 306 repeals the requirement that an inmate in a local jail who qualifies for involuntary admission can only be admitted if the Department agrees to pay for it. Additionally, it allows for privately paid evaluations and certifications, as well as authorizes the Department to accept federal, public, or private grants to comply. It also requires that inmates be placed within 12 hours of certification for involuntary admission and provides a process for judicial oversight as well as remedies and sanctions against the Department for failing to meet these requirements.

While some progress has been made regarding the prompt placement of certain defendants court-ordered into treatment, more must be done. The State must ensure that inmates who meet the criteria for involuntary admission are also promptly and appropriately placed in a state facility. These individuals are often those with the most severe illness that have manifested or deteriorated during their incarceration and there is no less restrictive form of intervention to address their safety and welfare. Due to the severity of their mental illness, holding these inmates in jail longer than absolutely needed is unconscionable. County jails cannot continue to be de facto mental health facilities…

For more on 2019 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.