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Kent Testifies at Hearing on Mental Illness in Correctional Settings

PEF President Susan M. Kent testified before a joint Assembly Standing Committee on Correction and Mental Health in Albany November 13.

The purpose of the public hearing was to examine the status of inmates with mental illness in our prisons and jails, and to determine what changes if any, are necessary to facilitate treatment, diversion and recovery of New Yorkers with mental illness involved in the criminal justice system.

Kent told state Assembly Members about PEF’s longstanding concern with the governor’s plan to close inpatient psychiatric facilities. She said many mentally ill individuals are being re-institutionalized as prison inmates. That comment was echoed by several others who testified.

“As long as the state ignores the realities that people with mental illness need comprehensive, integrated care that includes all levels of care, more tragedies will result. Inmates with mental illness cannot be released into the community or into inpatient facilities without notice and without staff training and resources in place to effectively provide care for these individuals,” Kent said. “The situation is even direr as the state pushes ahead to close inpatient psychiatric facilities, and has not set a plan to provide community-based services.

“When inpatient facilities close, and little if any care is provided in the community, far too many people with mental illness are re-institutionalized by being incarcerated because the person was not being adequately treated for his mental illness in the community.”

Kent concluded her testimony saying PEF employees are vested in their communities and possess the clinical expertise that provides an important piece of the safety net for New York’s most vulnerable citizens.

You can watch President Kent’s testimony HERE.