Harvard Mental Health Letter

Mental health courts

Since the mid-1950s mental hospitals have been emptied without sufficient provision for the care of patients in the community. Too often, no one is taking responsibility for helping them. The institutions and organizations that are supposed to serve them don't exchange information or coordinate their work. And many patients will not consent to treatment at all.

So they have begun to fill our jails and prisons. About 15% of incarcerated persons are seriously mentally ill. It's estimated that more people with major mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression) are detained in Illinois' Cook County Jail than are admitted to all the psychiatric hospitals in the state combined.

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