ISSUE: FORENSIC ISSUES
STATEMENT: Mental health, addictions, as well as individuals with co-occurring developmental disabili-ties often fall through the cracks in our criminal justice system. Our correction facilities are often not appropriate for persons with a mental illness or addictive disorders. Diversion, when appropriate, may avoid the criminalization of mental illness and addictions and the resulting labeling that often creates barriers to housing, employment, and the ability to be a productive member of society.
MHAI will advocate for a comprehensive change in our system so as to provide for a con-tinuum of mental health and addictions treatment for patients charged with a misdemeanor or felony, both juveniles and adults. The continuum must include: a statewide pre-& post-diversion program with treatment for individuals, problem-solving courts, including mental health and drug courts, a statewide community corrections program with a mental health and addiction treatment component; re-entry programs, including treatment, employment, and sealing criminal records from the public when appropriate; as well as a forensic facility designed to treat forensic patients that includes access to appropriate mental health and ad-diction medications. Police and correction officers must receive adequate mental health and addiction education and programming. Access to funding through Medicaid and other sources when permitted must be made available to ensure access to treatment through DMHA certified community-based care providers.
ARREST AND CONVICTION ADMISSIONS
An overcrowding and an ever-expanding Department of Corrections budget is due in large part to offenders who recycle back through the system or recidivate. One of the main predictors of whether or not an ex offender will return to prison is his or her ability to get a job. Non-violent alcohol and other drug offenders often face life long barriers to securing employment due to their criminal histories. MHAI will work to improve legislation that will eliminate the barriers associated with crim-inal histories that prevent ex offenders from securing employment.
AUTISM and INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY
Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder or an intellectual disability, like those with mental illness or substance abuse, should be permitted to participate in a foren-sic diversion program. Further, a criminal court should be permitted to appoint a court appointed special advocate to assist a person with Autism or an intellectual disability who is charged with a criminal offense. MHAI will support alternatives to incarceration for persons with disabilities.
PRIORITY LEVEL: I