Bouchard says bipartisan measures to expand options for individuals in the justice system to receive appropriate medical or mental health will “save money, improve public safety”
PONTIAC, MI – On Wednesday, March 7th, 2018, the Michigan House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved measures to give state and county law enforcement officials expanded options for evaluating and treating those with serious mental health and medical conditions.
House Bills 5234 (Howrylak) and 4101 (Pagel) would authorize County Sheriffs and the Michigan Department of Corrections to draw on a wider range of options to provide individuals with serious medical or mental health diagnoses needed treatment in the most appropriate setting.
“A sizeable percentage of those incarcerated have serious health conditions, both mental and physical, which our corrections system is simply not best equipped to handle,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard. “Giving more flexibility to law enforcement to move inmates to facilities that can provide appropriate care simply makes sense. It will reduce costs, reduce burdens on the corrections system, ensure individualized and appropriate treatment which will reduce the likelihood of recidivism, and overall improve public safety.”
Pagel’s bill would allow certain elderly prisoners who are so medically frail they no longer pose any danger to society to be eligible for parole so they can move to and receive treatment in a long-term care facility or nursing home.
These reforms emerged out of the House C.A.R.E.S. (Community, Access, Resources, Education, and Safety) Task Force hearings, established by House Speaker Tom Leonard to collect input and develop policy recommendations around mental health and criminal justice challenges in Michigan.
“House Speaker Tom Leonard has shown real leadership in prioritizing the needs of Michigan residents facing mental health challenges,” said Representative Martin Howrylak, the sponsor of one of the bills. “The goal must always be safety. We want to ensure that people are more likely to be contributing members of society when they leave the custody of the state than when they enter. These measures will expand the ability of law enforcement and our Department of Corrections to better utilize state resources to address the serious medical and mental health issues many individuals in the justice system face.
Co-chaired by Law and Justice Committee Chair Klint Kesto and Health Policy Committee Chair Hank Vaupel, the C.A.R.E.S. Task Force held five hearings throughout the state during the summer and fall of last year, listening to regular citizens and experts alike, and then released a report earlier this year.
Last week, the House advanced three other measures that emerged from the work of the Task Force, all sponsored by Kesto, to reduce the wait time for those in the criminal justice system awaiting mental health evaluations. Wait times would be reduced from six months or more to 30 to 45 days and would direct the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to use all available resources to solve the problem, including certifying additional facilities to share the statewide workload.
“Our criminal justice system needs to be both more efficient and creative in developing methods to effectively help our community members currently in prison, so they can safely return to their families and our communities as responsible and contributing members.” West Michigan business leader Dick DeVos said. DeVos continued, “These reforms are important steps forward for taxpayers, for victims and for families throughout our state. We urge the Senate to swiftly approve these measures.
Added Lenore Anderson, President of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, a national organization working with crime survivors in Michigan, “With this package of bills, Michigan lawmakers and law enforcement are demonstrating a clear commitment to public safety, working together to pursue smart solutions that break cycles of crime, reduce recidivism and improve safety. We are honored to work alongside these leaders and look forward to continuing to build a safer Michigan together.”
The measures will next be considered by the Senate.