Efforts are under way to find ways of keeping the mentally ill from stacking up in Denver’s jails, says the Denver Post.
The reverberations could affect surrounding communities. The initiatives range from hiring treatment specialists to help the mentally ill in the jails to the creation of a specialized mental health court docket. Another effort to create crisis centers in Denver and surrounding suburbs that would intervene and stabilize the mentally ill before they commit a crime has attracted the support of Colorado’s first lady Jeannie Ritter, the wife of Gov. Bill Ritter.
Nearly 17 percent of inmates at Denver’s jails, or 350 people, have serious mental health problems, ranging from schizophrenia to manic depression. “And there are others with less serious mental illnesses who are able to function in the jail and receive treatment, but in all cases, once they’re released from the jail, they hit this cliff,” said Bill Lovingier, Denver’s director of corrections. The proposed 16-bed crisis centers would become places that law-enforcement authorities could take the mentally ill when they reach a crisis. The centers would have the capacity to provide treatment for up to three days, and they would specialize in ensuring those needing treatment are handed off to outside professionals once they are released.