Local officials react to new mental health law

Local officials react to new mental health law

WICHITA FALLS, TX - A new bill signed by President Obama could affect mental health and prison inmates. 
On Tuesday, President Obama signed a reform concerning mental health and prison inmates.  
The law would affect prison inmates by getting those who are mentally sick and incarcerated the help they need instead of keeping them in the prison system. 
While many people are in favor of the law, officials are saying there are a few more questions to ask.

"It would be a plus for everybody if we can do that," said Sheriff David Duke.  "Any kind of help is better than none."

Tim Carr a mental health advocate with "Hope for Mental Health," said proper treatment for mentally ill usually happens too late.

"Somebody that has a mental health issue their first avenue to get help is after they have run a foul off the law in some way," said Carr.  "So often they seek to self-medicate for issues because they are afraid to talk about them and get the real help they need."

The new reform allows state and local government to use existing funding to create pre-trial screening and assessment programs to identify mentally ill offenders. 
Something Sheriff David Duke said is a concern.

"There's not any extra money or any room in there to have any kind of wiggle room to do anything else to help with what they have laid out in the law to continue to help the person who wants to get out of jail or even out of the penal system," said Sheriff Duke.

It also provides a need-based treatment and develops a post-release supervision plan.

"If people have more help obviously, it would be beneficial off of the county jail system right off the back," said Duke.
Carr said that if this law acts the way it is supposed to by keeping mentally ill out of jail, it benefits tax payers.

"It would actually save the taxpayers and local governments quite a bit of money just in the housing costs, the costs of imprisonment or jail time that are great costs for society as it is," said Carr. 
"If the people could get the help they need that could stay out of jail they could perhaps get gainful employment and live normal lives."

The law also mandates specialized training of officials.  This requires the use of new technology to ensure everyone is doing their part.

The law will also make sure people are properly equipped to respond to individuals with mental illnesses and mental health crises. 
Copyright 2016 KAUZ All rights reserved.