five decades of failed mental-health policies. During the 1960s, we began to empty the state mental hospitals but failed to put in place programs to ensure that the released patients received treatment after they left. By the 1980s, the results were evident—increasing numbers of seriously mentally ill persons among the homeless population and in the nation's jails and prisons. Over the past three decades, things have only gotten worse. A 2007 study by the U.S. Justice Department found that 56% of state prisoners, 45% of federal prisoners, and 64% of local jail inmates suffer from mental illnesses.Torrey adds:
The solution to this situation is obvious—make sure individuals with serious mental illnesses are receiving treatment. The mistake [is] ignoring the treatment needs of the patients being released. Many such patients will take medication voluntarily if it is made available to them. [But o]thers are unaware they are sick and should be required by law to receive assisted outpatient treatment, including medication and counseling. . . If they do not comply with the court-ordered treatment plan, they can and should be involuntarily admitted to a hospital.