Brooklyn Boro

Task force to seek out treatment diversion routes for mentally ill, substance abusers

June 2, 2014 By Matthew Taub Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn Brief
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A newly-created Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System will immediately work to create a strategic, actionable plan to ensure proper diversion routes and treatment for people with mental illness or substance abuse within the criminal justice system, as well as before and after contact with the system.

“For far too long, our city’s jails have acted as de facto mental health facilities,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Co-Chaired by Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Glazer, the task force is composed of commissioners from city, state, and law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, defenders and providers in the intersecting worlds of criminal justice and behavioral health, and will be advised by experts from the private sector.

“Arrestees with behavioral health issues often cycle through the city’s courts, jails and homeless shelters without treatment targeted at the underlying issues that contributed to their arrests in the first place,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli.

The task force will create opportunities to reduce crime and costs by treating the mental ill outside of the criminal justice system; identify effective approaches to medical and mental health care while incarcerated; develop better standards for transition from jail back into the community; and establish targeted treatment upon release. As part of these efforts, the task force will develop strategies for the city’s jails to improve the provision of mental health services for mentally ill inmates already in the criminal justice system, which place particular strain on the system.

The task force will present its action plan to the Mayor in September, 100 days after its first meeting on June 18.

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