Mental health is a topic that is often not given the attention it deserves. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a staggering number of 2 million jail bookings across the United States involve people with mental illness. This is a concerning issue that highlights the need for more accessible and affordable mental health care in our communities. It is unfortunate that people with mental illness are often stigmatized and may hesitate to seek help. The limited availability of mental health care further exacerbates the problem.
Untreated mental illness can create a burden not only for the patients but also for their families and the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, when people with mental illness experience a crisis, law enforcement officers are often the first responders. This can lead to an arrest that delays critical mental health treatment.
Fortunately, efforts are being made to address this issue. The Brazos County Sheriff’s Office Crisis Intervention Team is a specialized unit that responds to incidents involving people in a mental health crisis. The CIT aims to stabilize the situation and divert the subject from the criminal justice system to the appropriate MHMR outpatient or in-patient hospital treatment program. Since its inception, this team of deputies has worked closely with local mental health providers to identify people at risk of crisis before an event occurs.
As a community, we must work together to de-stigmatize mental health-related issues and actively cultivate resources to help mental health patients and their families. It is important that obtaining treatment for mental illness is as common and easy as getting treatment for physical illnesses such as high blood pressure or diabetes. By doing so, we can reduce the burden on the criminal justice system and improve the lives of those affected by mental illness.