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Shaheen Statement on Senate Passage of Bill to Address Mental Health Crisis in Criminal Justice System

(Washington, D.C.) U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today applauded Senate passage of legislation she co-sponsored that would provide mental health services for people in the criminal justice system. The Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act, authored by Senator Al Franken (D-MN), would help reduce recidivism rates for offenders by providing more resources to law enforcement, the courts and correctional facilities to treat mental health issues.

“There’s a growing consensus that prison sentences are not the answer for many individuals who are in our criminal justice system, especially those dealing with substance abuse issues,” said Shaheen. “This legislation puts an appropriate emphasis on treatment to help those with mental health conditions get their lives back on-track. In New Hampshire, we know that we can’t arrest our way out of the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic and I’m pleased that the Senate is taking action to support proven programs that help our communities deal with this crisis.”  

Specifically, the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act:

  • extends the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA), and continuing support for mental health courts and crisis intervention teams;
  • authorizes investments in veterans treatment courts, which serve arrested veterans who suffer from PTSD, substance addiction, and other mental health conditions;
  • supports state and local efforts to identify people with mental health conditions at each point in the criminal justice system in order to appropriately direct them to mental health services;
  • increases focus on corrections-based programs, such as transitional services that reduce recidivism rates and screening practices that identify inmates with mental health conditions;
  • supports the development of curricula for police academies and orientations; and
  • develops programs to train federal law enforcement officers in how to respond appropriately to incidents involving a person with a mental health condition.

This bill complements legislation Senator Shaheen introduced in October that would empower the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work within the criminal justice system to train law enforcement, courts, attorneys, and legal assistance organizations in order to divert veterans in the justice system into treatment programs and avoid incarceration.