Fast Focus: How can we improve mental health care in the Tri-Cities? Case for a mental health court

May 12, 2013 

The best thing we could do is establish a mental health court such as they have in Spokane and other areas.

People with mental illness often end up in jail because they act out, can't control their moods, break laws they don't even understand, fail to answer their mail and can't pay their fines because they can't hold jobs. Once in the legal system, their problems snowball and they build up larger and larger fines, more jail time and they just end up bewildered -- not helped in any way.

We also need a consolidated crisis response center that offers treatment, therapy, medications, and temporary housing. In addition, we need long-term subsidized housing for the mentally ill -- some in group homes and some in small, individual apartments. Living apart from family gives a sense of independence to the mentally ill person, and gives the families a much-needed respite. Having a mentally ill family member is not something one plans for, but it can be a marriage killer and places strains on all relationships in a household. Housing is needed.

-- MICHELE GERBER, Richland

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