Researchers from North Carolina State University, the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) and the University of South Florida recently published a study that shows “providing mental health care is not only in the best interest of people with mental illness, but in the best interests of society,” said Dr. Sarah Desmarais, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research.
The researchers wanted to determine the extent to which treating mental illness can keep people with mental health problems out of trouble with the law. It is well established that people with mental health problems, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, make up a disproportionate percentage of defendants, inmates and others who come into contact with the criminal justice system.
The researchers identified 4,056 people who had been hospitalized for mental illness in 2004 or 2005 and then tracked them from 2005 to 2012. They were able to determine which individuals were receiving government-subsidized medication and which were receiving government-subsidized outpatient services, such as therapy. They also were able to determine who was arrested during the seven-year study period.
“Our research shows that people receiving medication were significantly less likely to be arrested,”Desmarais said. “Outpatient services also resulted in a decreased likelihood of arrest.”
Researchers also compared criminal justice costs with mental health treatment costs. Individuals who were arrested received less treatment and each cost the government approximately $95,000 during the study period. Individuals who were not arrested received more treatment and each cost the government approximately $68,000 during the study period.
“It costs about $10 less per day to provide treatment and prevent crime. That’s a good investment,” Desmarais says.
- Houston’s solution to mental health system problems offers a case study for Milwaukee (jsonline.com)
- Op-ed: Focus on mental illness to curb gun violence (nj.com)
- Cynthia Germanotta: A Kinder, Braver Mental Health World (huffingtonpost.com)