Re “Recent police shootings show mental health concern” (Page A1, Nov. 28) and “Cruel and all too usual: State fails inmates with mental illness” (Editorial, Nov. 28): Yes, we should shift to mental health crisis response teams that rely on clinicians rather than police officers, and we must offer better care to those in our prisons and jails. Yet what would significantly decrease encounters between people who live with serious mental health conditions and our criminal justice system is a responsive and consistent behavioral health care apparatus that doesn’t abandon these people.
To bolster a viable system, our state legislators must address the insurance industry’s anti-parity policies that financially squeeze behavioral health hospital inpatient units, day programs, and outpatient services. Without change, we will be left with our hollow system where the demand for services outpaces supply.
We need to build up community mental health centers that don’t give up on complex cases but that instead offer wraparound services and the more advanced therapeutic options that help those most in need. With appropriate care, people won’t be left to languish until a crisis develops that may send them spiraling toward the criminal justice system.
The writer is president of the Central Middlesex affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.