Two thirds of prisoners nationwide with a mental illness were off treatment at the time of their arrest, says a new study by Harvard researchers that suggests under-treatment of mental illness contributes to crime and incarceration, reports the White Coat Notes blog on Boston.com. The study, published online in the American Journal of Public Health, found that about a quarter of inmates nationwide had a history of chronic mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar illness ,and depression. Researchers analyzed data collected in 2002 and 2004 from local, state, and federal correctional facilities.
“For many of them, treatment of their mental illness before their arrest might have prevented criminality and the staggering human and financial costs of incarceration,” said study author Steffie Woolhandler, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard. Woolhandler said the findings portend significant problems for Massachusetts, where the Department of Mental Health last week laid off about 100 case managers — nearly one quarter of the staffers who supervise people with severe mental illness and make sure they get services they need.