Louisville Officials Introduce Program Meant to Help Jailed Mentally Ill People

An initiative that aims to work against the cycle of incarcerating people that suffer from mental illness is taking hold in Louisville.

The Assertive Community Treatment will seek out people who, because of mental illness, continuously cycle through the corrections system. The initiative  is meant to  provide needed services and treatment to help the person successfully reintegrate into society.

The program costs $21,000 per person.Tony Zipple, chief executive of Seven County Services, said the cost of the treatment pales in comparison to the “unorganized” cost of continuous incarceration.

A mentally ill who is frequently involved in the justice system or in need of emergency room treatment can cost upwards of $100,000 annually, Zipple said.

The Assertive Community Treatment program will provide for housing, employment, medical care and transportation once a person is released from jail or prison.

“We know that we can do much better than incarcerating people or dropping them in other institutional settings,” Zipple said.  “We know that if we give people the right support and services they don’t need to be in jail or in hospitals or in personal care homes that they can have good lives in the community.”

Zipple said the program will aim to reach 100 people in the Louisville community during the first year and at least 600 people across the state over three years.

The program will be funded through the Department of Behavioral Health and is partnered with Louisville Metro Corrections, Louisville Metro Housing Authority and the Louisville Department for Community Services.

On any given day, nearly 25 percent of inmates in Metro Corrections are being treated for mental illness, said Mark Bolton, director of Metro Corrections.

Bolton said a majority of those people are not a public safety threat.

“Are they people that bug us, are they people that we find on the street corner, are they the people that we might find roaming the streets, are they the people that might be offensive? Yes they are,” he said.  “But those are the types of people that this program can help.

“We have spent hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars on a very select few number of individuals.”

Bolton said such incarcerations takes up valuable amounts of police resources, court resources, public defender resources, prosecutor resources and corrections resources.

Of the 29  people currently in the program, 11  are within the top 100 “high utilizers” of corrections services.

The program will provide constant, year-round support services with no time restrictions.  This means that the people it aims to help will have the freedom to work through the program on their own timeframe and not be pressured or suffer from a sense that they are still being “institutionalized,” he said.

“We’re going to see some of these high system utilizers begin to achieve success in the community,” Bolton predicted.  “We’re going to see, people that have a history of penetrating the criminal justice system, police, court, corrections, emergency room resources, we are going to see a reduction of those individuals that are involved in this program I am confident in that.”

(Image via Shutterstock)

Jacob Ryan

Jacob Ryan is the Urban Affairs reporter for WFPL.

@jacobhryan

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