Over the years Governor Cuomo and the NYS Office of Mental Health have closed a multitude of the Mental Health Facilities that historically provided treatment to people with a severe mental illness.
Under the Governor’s watch the Kingsboro Psychiatric Hospital, Mohawk Valley, and Sagmore Psychiatric Center have closed. These came on top of previously announced closings at Rockland Psychiatric Center, Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center, Hudson River Psychiatric Center, and Buffalo Psychiatric Center.
These closings sparked outrage and some protest, but the Governor reassured concerned New Yorkers that the mentally ill that were dependent on the much-needed service would be able to get the same service elsewhere.
Under the Cuomo Administration, we have now seen the “Fend for Yourself Mentally Ill Policy”. The mass closings of Mental Health Facilities has created a serious Public Safety issue in many communities in the state of New York.
There are many citizens with severe mental illnesses who become incarcerated because their families have no other means to find adequate treatment for their loved ones. Over the past decade, we have watched our public psychiatric system deteriorate. It has become common practice to have the mentally ill arrested in an efficient manner to accomplish someone getting the proper treatment.
When we read about mentally ill citizens being shot, shot at, or killed by law enforcement. We are witnessing the effect of failed local, county and state policies. Failed policies that have led to budget cuts and untrained Police Officers unfit to deal with emotional disturbed or mentally ill persons. So now when citizens and family members call for assistance they are watching their loved ones killed because many first responders have no training in dealing with the mentally ill community.
Your local Correction Officer is now your new Mental Orderly.
With the increase mentally ill population according to a report by mental illness.org data collected by the U.S. Department of Justice, in mid-2005 there were 2,186,230 prisoners in local jails and state and federal prisons in the United States. Estimates of the percentage of detainees who have severe psychiatric disorders have ranged from 7 percent to 16 percent; the latter figure comes from a widely cited but methodologically controversial federal study.
The best studies suggest that approximately 10 percent of prisoners have severe psychiatric disorders. Thus, about 218,000 individuals with serious mental illness are incarcerated in the nation’s jails and prisons at any given time. This number is equivalent to the population of such cities as Akron, Ohio; Madison, Wisconsin; Montgomery, Alabama; Richmond, Virginia; or Tacoma, Washington.
A jail facility has never been properly equipped for care custody and control of the mentally ill. The DNA of Corrections was never intended to make the Correction Officer an Orderly. Now because of failed governmental cutbacks, back door deals by Union Bosses, your local facilities have become a replicator of Batman’s Arkham Asylum.
With the many advocates of the Mentally Ill, their protest has gone on deaf years of policy makers and elected officials. Still, the order of the day is warehouse the mentally ill in our jail systems. While the lone Correction Officer that has to manage up to 60 inmates in one housing area becomes the focus of what is called the “abuse of the mentally ill.”
The Correction Officer, in many cases, is the only law enforcement professional that has yearly training in dealing with mentally ill. The Correction Officer must know conflict resolution, de-escalation and communication skills are necessary on a daily basis for safety and good order of the housing area.
What the press, Elected Officials and even Correction Union Bosses have failed to realize the increase dangers of using jails as an alternative to proper Mental Health Facilities. There are an estimated 125,200 non deadly assaults on Correction Officers each year.
In the U.S., approximately half a million correctional officers are responsible for supervising more than two million inmates. Correctional officers are exposed to unique workplace hazards. Custody of the mentally ill within a prison environment is an added threat to the overall safety and security of the facility and ultimately the communities that they serve.