A third of states earn Ds or Fs for diverting people with mental illness from jail
SALT LAKE CITY — A new study places Utah first among states for diverting people with mental illness from jail, while a third of states earn failing grades.
The Treatment Advocacy Center’s “Mental Health Diversion Practices” report ranks Utah first in two key areas:
“The key to Utah’s high ranking is financial and program collaboration at various levels. First, between our office, SLCPD, and NAMI. Second, between county mental health authorities, city and county law enforcement, courts and mental health advocates at the local level working together,” said Doug Thomas, Director of Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.
“Appropriate diversion to treatment through CIT and Mental Health Courts helps everyone involved. People get effective treatment interventions to address their healthcare needs, officers are safer in their interactions with people going through a mental health crisis, and the court system isn’t criminalizing mental illness. It’s a win-win situation that needs consistent support because the underlying facts – mental illness, substance abuse, and contact with law enforcement – are ever-present.”
Among the 50 states, only Utah, Florida, California and Ohio are reaching at least 60% of their populations with each of the measured diversion practices. One-third of the states earn grades of D or F based on an average of the two prevalence rates, while nationwide, the national letter grade on diversion is a “C plus.”
“I can guarantee that every police officer will respond to calls for service where someone is in a mental health crisis,” said Chris Burbank, Salt Lake City Chief of Police. “CIT training may help that officer see the difference between mental illness and criminal behavior, which I know has saved lives. And that’s why SLCPD supports this program.”
Led by the Salt Lake City Police Department, CIT Utah offers free training to officers statewide. As a result, law enforcement agencies in 21 counties — Box Elder, Cache, Rich, Weber, Tooele, Davis, Morgan, Salt Lake, Utah, Summit, Wasatch, Duchesne, Uintah, Price, Sanpete, Sevier, Beaver, Iron County, Garfield, Washington and Kane — operate CIT programs.
“Individuals and families who find themselves faced with a mental health crisis feel enormous anxiety about involving law enforcement,” said NAMI Utah Executive Director Rebecca Glathar. “Will the individual be harmed? Will the individual become incarcerated? Will charges be filed which will haunt them once they return to health? Will the needed treatment be rendered? Families are left with a disconcerting dilemma—what will happen if I try to get my loved one help?
“Being able to assure individuals and families that there are police officers trained to provide a safer intervention for the person experiencing a mental health crisis, their family members, the community, and the officers themselves, can be tremendously reassuring. Every day, individuals and families thank us for informing them about these specially-trained officers. We applaud the work of the CIT Utah team and the police officers who volunteer to participate in this gold standard program.
Det. Ron Bruno