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Prison populations swell as mental health services decline

Published: Wednesday, May 8 2013 1:45 p.m. MDT

Rates of institutionalization of adults by decade (Mercedes White, Thinkprogress, 2013) Rates of institutionalization of adults by decade (Mercedes White, Thinkprogress, 2013)

The biggest cuts to mental health services in the history of this nation came during the Great Recession, according to a report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which shows how states slashed an unprecedented $1.8 billion from their mental health services between 2009 and 2011.

But this funding decision has consequences, according to a blogpost by Tara Culp-Ressler at Thinkprogress. Budget cuts created a shortage of mental health facilities and adequate treatment resources — particularly in large states like Illinois and California, according to an investigative news report from CBS. This has "produced an untenable status quo in which the prison system serves as an alternate pipeline to funnel through sick Americans, who have nowhere else to go," said CBS.

Culp-Ressler references a report from Mother Jones that argues that the prison instead of mental health facility trend "wasn’t initiated by the recession’s budget cuts; it was simply worsened by it." According to Mother Jones, this has been happening since the 1970s when a sharp increase in the nation’s prison population directly corresponded with a sharp decline in the number of Americans institutionalized at mental health hospitals.

mwhite@deseretnews.com

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