It’s a national disgrace that can be traced directly back to the vast inequity of wealth that exist today. Money once used to fund State mental health programs through tax dollars has dried up as it funnels into the pockets of the rich. How long can a society thrive when the basic needs of it’s most sick, desperate, and vulnerable citizens are ignored? The repercussions of this sad reality are evident on every street in America. Unfortunately, police officers are the now the first point of contact and jail the de facto asylum. Read the entire article on AL.Com.
By Lee Roop & Challen Stephens
People who set fires in cells. Take their clothes off in lobbies. Walk or run toward deputies carrying guns and knives. Try to break into sheriffs’ homes at night.
Alabama sheriffs say they face a growing number of mentally ill residents and a shrinking state mental health system.
“Did I really comprehend the magnitude of it?” asks Sheriff Rick Singleton in Lauderdale County. “Probably not until I actually got into office and started dealing with it.”
“The biggest problem is there are no beds, no place to put them when you get an involuntary commitment,” Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely said. “We’ve had that at least three times this year.”
The state has closed three psychiatric hospitals since 2012 for financial reasons, cutting the number of beds for patients from 740 to 268 — a drop of 64 percent.
“Currently, those in need of mental health services only have three options we’re aware of – inpatient care, outpatient care or care during incarceration,” said Chief Deputy Randy Christian in Jefferson County.
Without available beds, sheriffs talk of searching for charges to find a way to house potentially dangerous individuals.