Health Care In The States

Sheriff: State Mental Health Cuts Undermine Public Safety

By Jenny Gold

March 22nd, 2012, 5:54 PM

As states have struggled to balance their budgets during the economic downturn, mental health programs have frequently weathered significant cuts. Three-quarters of states have cut their mental health budgets during each of the past four fiscal years, for a combined reduction of $4.35 billion, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Research Institute, which represents state mental health agencies.

At the same time, demand for mental health services has increased by 10 percent, the group says.

But state mental health agencies aren’t the only ones feeling the pain— local law enforcement agencies say they’re bearing the brunt of the cuts.

Brian Gootkin is the Sheriff of Gallatin County, Montana — an area twice the size of Rhode Island, encompassing Bozeman and part of Yellowstone National Park — and he oversees 48 deputies. Gootkin says his force is “experiencing a significant increase” in psychiatric emergencies, which he says is a “direct result of mental health funding reductions.” Montana has cut its state mental health budget by 5.8 percent since 2009, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“I would go so far as to say that my officers have become an involuntary component of the State of Montana’s emergency psychiatric response teams,” Gootkin said at a briefing on Capitol Hill Thursday.

When the police are called for a psychiatric emergency, he says his deputies are required to handcuff the patient and transport him or her in the back of the patrol call to the nearest facility, which may be up to two hours away.  The lengthy process has a major impact on the day-to-day operations of law enforcement, he explains, but it’s nothing in comparison to his colleagues in Custer County, Montana, where the nearest state hospital is nearly six hours away and there are only three deputies.

The increase in psych calls has a direct impact on public safety, Gootkin argues. “Every deputy that is diverted to the Montana State Hospital, or even to our local hospital is not on patrol maintaining public order and deterring crime,” he says.  And while his officers have some mental health training, “they are not mental health professionals, and I don’t want them to be. I want them to be deputy sheriffs.”

10 Responses to “Sheriff: State Mental Health Cuts Undermine Public Safety”

  1. Also, some clients who are put on a psych hold, turn and accuse the police or sheriff of assaulting them. Do you know, or are you aware that the responding officers must obtain their own counsel, and pay for it. Not every police or sheriff dept stands behind their responding officers. If they did nothing wrong, and that is the protocal to cuff, and transport, then their dept should support All officers who are accused of this attrocity. These individuals obviously may already be in an altered state of mind, and may be hyper sensitive to cuffs being placed on them, or to being put into a police car, usually poor guyan ambulance is best to use though. They have access to meds via phone contact directly with responding ER physician. The responding police officer is limited in how they may respond. But really, who wants to feel threatoned in losing their hard earned real estate, or other valuables that they worked so hard to earn, due to being accused of “Assaulting” a 51/50 patient. They need to be covered for responding, and backed up by the law. Unless it’s really obvious that the officer battered and there is a witness, why would they not provide FREE counsel to their officers. You can’t have it both ways, and you need to support these officers whose life is on the line daily for your department, and citicens. I know an individual who had nothing to do but resign as a police officer , for his department would not support his initiating a 51/50, and then the person being 51/50 was screaming “Assault,Assault!!” The poor officer took a step down, and felt he had no other choice but to resign from his 20 year tour of duty as a police officer because he couldn’t afford to put his life on the line, and not be supported, including legal counsel in the Event that it was Needed. We still can’t believe this happened to this officer. He was a hard working, professional police officer. His entire life was being a police Officer. He even volunteered as a crossing guard at the young age of 12 at his catholic elementary school. He planned his entire life to become a Peace Officer. Then his career ended because of that ” Hysterical Bitch!!” And, the temp police chief who by the way retired or transferred after saying that he would not support this police officer against that lady’s false accusations of assault. Well the police chief moved on after that, paid off well of course. Meanwhile the police officer wasn’t paid off. He had no choice but to quit,”Retire” was how he put it for his public work record. But we know what really happened, and we know how unfair some of these departments are being to perhaps the employees from lower income families, or is it because they’re products of immigrant parents. There’s something going on, and it’z just getting worse!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Also, some clients who are put on a psych hold, turn and accuse the police or sheriff of assaulting them. Do you know, or are you aware that the responding officers must obtain their own counsel, and pay for it. Not every police or sheriff dept stands behind their responding officers. If they did nothing wrong, and that is the protocal to cuff, and transport, then their dept should support All officers who are accused of this attrocity. These individuals obviously may already be in an altered state of mind, and may be hyper sensitive to cuffs being placed on them, or to being put into a police car, usually ambulance transport is best to use though. They have access to meds via phone contact directly with responding ER physician. The responding police officer is limited in how they may respond. But really, who wants to feel threatened in losing their hard earned real estate, or other valuables that they worked so hard to earn, due to being accused of “Assaulting” a 51/50 patient. They need to be covered for responding, and backed up by the law. Unless it’s really obvious that the officer battered and there is a witness, why would they not provide FREE counsel to their officers. You can’t have it both ways, and you need to support these officers whose life is on the line daily for your department, and citicens. I know an individual who had nothing to do but resign as a police officer , for his department would not support his initiating a 51/50, and then the person being 51/50 was screaming “Assault,Assault!!” The poor officer took a step down, and felt he had no other choice but to resign from his 20 year tour of duty as a police officer because he couldn’t afford to put his life on the line, and not be supported, including legal counsel in the Event that it was Needed. We still can’t believe this happened to this officer. He was a hard working, professional police officer. His entire life was being a police Officer. He even volunteered as a crossing guard at the young age of 12 at his catholic elementary school. He planned his entire life to become a Peace Officer. Then his career ended because of that ” Hysterical Bitch!!” And, the temp police chief who by the way retired or transferred after saying that he would not support this police officer against that lady’s false accusations of assault. Well the police chief moved on after that, paid off well of course. Meanwhile the police officer wasn’t paid off. He had no choice but to quit,”Retire” was how he put it for his public work record. But we know what really happened, and we know how unfair some of these departments are being to perhaps the employees from lower income families, or is it because they’re products of immigrant parents. There’s something going on, and it’z just getting worse!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. K. M. McDonald says:

    In perhaps simpler terms, the psychiatric patient/client exists, s/he requires special custodial support. This state of being does not change regardless of the funding level changes. Whether the patient/client goes through Door A, the mental health system, or Door B, the legal system, the governmental system still is going to pay for providing special custodial care for the patient/client. To think that the monetary gains in Col A of the accounts payable is now lowered without considering that Col B of the accounts payable is just increased is the illogical thinking of myopic fiscal conservatives.

  4. Law enforcement cannot compensate for what the state cannot or is unwilling to do. It has little hope of providing enough treatment to alter the course of these people’s lives. Testing and assessment is really the burden of prosecutors and defendant attorney’s seeking justice in their trials. Law enforcement’s responsibility is to hold, detain and protect the individual until a final disposition is made. That’s why they call it jail, holding cell, etc.

  5. Ms. Agramonte: Salmon with black beans is a protein meal, unless you add a sauce, in which case it becomes a carbohydrate/fat meal. The best way to achieve bliss in this regards is to substitute black jelly beans for the normal beans. Think of is at salmon eggs which can also be used as fish bait.

  6. Lynn in SC says:

    Pay now or pay later but society always pays for barriers to effective public sponsored mental health care. Most states hold a social contract as the mental health provider of last resort don’t pay for mental health care but do pay for incarceration. Warehousing the mentally ill was often cruel but not providing care is equally cruel. Too many families suffer in silence as they watch brothers/sisters or children disappear when effective treatments are available.

  7. Ron says:

    As a mental health professional in a rural border community with Mexico we are facing similar problems. There has been a shortage of mental health professionals in all rural communities in Texs for decades. Those of us who have paid our own way to set up and administer a private practice are now be run out by 40% reductions. Now the HMOs are taking many of the Medicaid patients and are setting up additional barriers to include longer waiting periods to get paid. They have asked the Solicitor Gerenal’s office to investigage those who have seen more than the average mental health provider. If you work 6 days a week this will happen. Instead of rewarding us for our excessive work scedules they fine us thousands of dollars for billing more than average. Thank you Gov. Perry! That makes a lot of sense. Now watch the brain drain effect grow!

  8. Sharon Ostrowsky RN says:

    these are good informative letters. By cutting mental healthcare funds, the police/legal system are being forced to be pseudo – care providers. I work as psychiatric RN in Illinois state public healthcare system. Our govenor AND legislators need major educating of fact they truly are NOT saving money by cutting public mental healthcare funds. They are instead paying more into police/legal area to treat mental health in jail system! Lots of police are NOT adequately trained OR

  9. Sharon Ostrowsky RN says:

    These are good letters. By cutting budget for mental healthcare, they are ACTUALLY spending more in police/judicial system. these patients/clients canNOT afford private system. With PROPER treatment they CAN BE productive, positive workers. Instead they are being treated in jails by those only minimally qualified! I am a psychiatric RN in public mental healthcare system. In Illinois where I work, our legislators AND govenor need major educating of these facts! With current trend, we are heading back to 40′s through 60′s where psychiatric patients are relagated to ” back rooms of family homes and treatment is not given but STIGMA is associated with any form of mental illness”! I had to go into mental health nursing to learn about illness of an elderly family member of mine! This country government needs to think of direction it is going!

  10. patent says:

    Masoud: “I’ve got to agree with Arnold, and others who have brought up your commenting practices in the past. In reality, they’re not much different from Sassan’s, although more topical and thought out, though less extreme. I think you could do well with just a link to outside material, and your own thoughts.”

Share