August 28, 2005

Colorado Jails House Most of Mentally Ill

Colorado has a public mental health system that has suffered from numerous budget cuts leading to many of the mentally ill being housed in jails instead of some type of rehabilitative psychiatric housing. The number of beds available at the two state mental hospitals have dropped and the percentage of jail inmates with a psychiatric illness has increased. According to the statistics, 1 in 5 prison inmates have a mental illness, and 1 out of 4 in county jails have a mental illness.

The statistics affecting the mentally ill in Colarado are not encouraging:
"- In 2004, the state cut funding for treatment of serious mental illness by 25 percent, which led to 14,000 fewer people receiving treatment.

- At the two state mental hospitals, the number of beds has dropped from 552 at Pueblo and 220 at Fort Logan in 1999 to 438 and 173 this year. Thirty years ago, when the state’s population was half what it is today, the two hospitals had more than 6,000 beds.

- The percentage of Colorado Department of Corrections inmates diagnosed with a serious mental illness has increased from 3 percent in 1991 to 11 percent in 1999 to 18 percent — 3,750 inmates — in 2004" (Rappold, 2005).

This obvious disparity in mental health funding has not seemed to be at the forefront of any politicians agenda as it has not received much attention in years. The amount of mentally ill being put in the Colarado prison system has only grown over the years. It will take some time to fix this problem, as well as a lot of funding. Its a difficult road ahead, but its a road that needs to be travelled sooner rather than later.

Original Source: Locking up the sick. The Gazette. August 28, 2005. By R. Scott Rappold.


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