Arkansas Public Policy Panel Advocates Mental Health Centers For Inmates

Jun 18, 2015

Behavioral health task force members hear from researchers on the costs of mental health treatment for inmates.
Credit Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

The Arkansas Public Policy panel is advocating for the creation of mental illness crisis centers for the criminal justice system in the state.

On Thursday, the group presented research to state lawmakers and estimated nearly $140 million in savings each year.

Jim Metzger with the consulting group HISTECON Associates said housing a mentally ill person in jail for a year costs 20 times more than mental health treatment.

“People with mental illness are not receiving the proper treatment that would allow them to return to their families,” he said.

The report makes comparisons with states that have implemented similar programs, including Oklahoma, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas and Oregon.

It advocates for investment in crisis centers to help mentally ill persons to reduce costs and allow law enforcement officials to focus on the highest-risk criminals.

The Arkansas Public Policy Panel estimates there are 3,500 mentally ill adult inmates in prisons and jails in the state.