Ohio AG awards grants to prevent 'revolving door' for mentally ill

HAMILTON COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - The Ohio Attorney General's Office awarded $500,000 in grants to help the mentally ill who find themselves in and out of the criminal justice system.

It's estimated that Hamilton County has hundreds of mentally ill people in and out of jail because of their mental illness. It's something the Ohio Attorney General calls the "revolving door effect."

Now there's funding available to help break that cycle.

Central Clinic President and CEO Dr. Walter Smitson says some of that money has been earmarked for the Cincinnati area.

"We received $137,000 in Hamilton County and that came to our Court Clinic program," he explained, a program that provides a variety of evaluation and treatment services for those involved in the criminal justice system.

Smitson says Court Clinic has proven to be successful for treating women, and now with new state funding, they can treat men.

"It's for men showing signs of mental illness and usually substance abuse along with that and they will be referred by judges," he said.

"It's very important that these folks are treated and identified. Of course when they get to the court, the mental health court with all the programs and facilities that we have available," said Judge Lisa Allen with the county's mental health court.

However, Smitson believes it's the mentally ill who aren't getting effective treatment that raises concern.

He says, "I think it's those persons in the community that are showing escalating signs of illness, but nobody takes the time to say to a police officer, 'I'm concerned about somebody down the block here that may be showing a lot of agitation'. Consequently if those persons go unnoticed or nobody intervenes, I think those are situations that can lead to violence occurring."

Judge Allen says citizens should report abnormal behavior.

"I think it would be important for people, just the general public, if they see somebody that's acting abnormally, speaking to themselves, exhibiting signs that they may be mentally ill... They need to contact someone to try to get that person seen and treated," she said.

In Hamilton County there are case workers, counselors and other advocates but in order for any of these programs to work, the mentally ill have to make an effort.

The Hamilton County branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness has also received grant money to train police officers on how to identify and deal properly with people with mental illness.

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