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Mentally Ill Offender Treatment Act Signed

Improves Access to Services for Violent Offenders

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The Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004, which will improve access to mental health services for adult and juvenile non-violent offenders, was signed into law by the President on October 30. The bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on October 6 and by the Senate on October 11.

"This law places critical resources where they are needed most, on the front lines," says Russ Newman, Ph.D., J.D., APA's executive director for professional practice. "It will improve collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, mental health and substance abuse treatment systems. It will ensure that both adult and juvenile non-violent offenders with mental health disorders are identified properly and receive the treatment they need from the point of arrest to re-entry into the community, and are not simply recycled into the system."

Sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Rep. Ted Strickland (D-OH), this legislation authorizes a $50 million federal grant program for states and counties to establish more mental health courts, expand prisoners' access to mental health treatment while incarcerated and upon re-entry into the community, provide additional resources for pre-trial jail diversion programs and related initiatives, and fund cross-training for law enforcement officials and mental health personnel dealing with adult and juvenile offenders with mental health disorders.

Re-Entry Programs

The Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act expands upon Sen. DeWine's and Rep. Strickland's America's Law Enforcement and Mental Health Project, the innovative mental health courts pilot program that became law in 2000.

The new law, recognizing the needs of offenders with mental health disorders, is consistent with the recommendations of President Bush's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health which cited jail diversion and community re-entry programs as best practices.

"We thank Sen. DeWine and Rep. Strickland for leading this effort and developing a multi-pronged strategy that will provide mental health services to an underserved population," says Newman.

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