By Lin Ennis, Sedona Resident
(August 24, 2014)
A significantly disproportionate number of incarcerated people are mentally ill, some severely. Often their crimes are crimes of survival – vagrancy, loitering, stealing food, panhandling. Do you know a studio apartment in Arizona costs 93 percent of an SSI or SSDI check?–making housing unaffordable for adults living with serious mental illness who rely on SSI.
I recently encountered a lovely gentleman who came to the gym to sign up. He was fit and loved to work out, but he wouldn’t have money to pay until his check came on the third. I set up a membership for him, which he paid in full when his check came. He was a veteran, well-spoken, educated and homeless. His real problem, we saw as the days passed, was paranoia, specifically paranoid schizophrenia.
He spent a night in jail in beautiful Sedona for hanging around the AM/PM. Refused to sign in at the Community Center so he could continue having free meals there. In a disease like his, each day without medication, the paranoia is worse.
We don’t want them to wander our streets or sleep on our park benches, yet we provide little else. Is it polite genocide? Civilly make them invisible, then don’t help because they are invisible. And they die on the street from violence, hunger, disease, or in jail with a criminal record. Perhaps the crime is society’s.
In 2006, Arizona had 35,801 people in custody, the same year we spent just $157 per capita on mental health agency service, 3.8 percent of total state spending. By FY 2005, corrections spending accounted for 10 percent of state general fund expenditures, one of the highest proportions in the nation.
Treatment is cheaper and more effective than punishment.
One Of Our Biggest Problems Is The Abuse Of Our Welfare And Support Systems. We Tolerate A High Percentage Of Fraud Which Keeps Politicians In Office. Medicare Floor Example Admits To $80 Billion. Clean Up The Fraud At All Levels And You Will Find More Than Enough Funds To Take CareOf These Folks.
But That Takes Political Will And A Public Who Stops Voting For “What’s In It For Me”.
Sorry About The Caps, Stupid Phone Upgrade.
Mike, I’m so sorry about your stupid phone upgrade. 😉 I know the feeling.
I think the fraud problem is less linked to filling our jails with mentally ill people than it is linked to people on the outside who know how to game the system (and flawed administration).
One of the reasons some mentally people get jailed for crimes is because they do not understand, know, or remember how to access services available to them–even if the services are free.
In the case of the story I told about a homeless gym member, someone was supposed to meet him as McDonalds to take him to the VA in Prescott. After missing that connection two days in a row (not sure whether he had the time and place correct), he began railing on all the crimes of the VA. He summed up his diatribe by telling me he was cutting all ties to the VA.
Since Sedona had “ruined his Sedona experience” for him, he made his way to Cottonwood. A couple days later he came into the gym barefoot with his feet bleeding. It is astonishing how quickly paranoid schizophrenics can go downhill when not properly medicated.
In jail, he would get the cheapest generic medication available and at the lowest dose. That might not work for him at all. Generics are allowed a 20% strength variance. It often takes years to find the correct medication and build enough trust with the person that they will take it.
This sounds like it’s going to cost a lot of money to help even one person. How much for a ticket to a third world or war torn country? 😉