Arizona Locks Up More Mentally Ill People than it Hospitalizes

Arizona’s safety net for mentally ill people is a flimsy one. The state locks up more people than it hospitalizes and services for people with disorders are under fire.

An AZBigMedia report looked at how the state can improve its mental health services. In 2016, Mental Health America’s annual State of Mental Health Report placed Arizona at the foot of a table for mental health services. The report noted the high incidence of mental illness in the state and low access to mental healthcare.

Arizona locks up mentally ill people
Arizona locks up people with mental illnesses

Mental Health America noted factors like soaring poverty, low high school graduation rates, and elevated levels of toxic chemical release. Poor access to mental healthcare services elevates these issues.

Experts say Arizona needs more mental health professionals to address the lack of resources.

The Treatment Advocacy Center said Arizona failed to provide the number of beds needed to provide adequate treatment for people with mental illness.

AzBigMedia reported 50 beds per 100,000 people is the national standard. In 2016, there were just 4.4 beds per 100,000 people, ranking Arizona 48th nationally in terms of beds per capita.

The article noted a link between states with better access to mental health care and less violent crime, less unemployment, lower rates of child malnutrition and better high school graduation rates.

In contrast, Arizona locks up more people with mental illness than it hospitalizes. The article alluded to a 9.3-1 chance of being incarcerated versus being hospitalized if a person is mentally ill, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center.

When experts discuss the dramatic problems Arizona faces in dealing with its mental health crisis, a theme that reoccurs throughout the conversation is the increasing need for mental healthcare specialists.

Mental Health America’s report highlighted a particular issue with young people who suffer from mental health problems.

Arizona ranked 32nd in the nation for mental healthcare for adults and 47th for mental healthcare for young people. The report noted a lack of specialists able to treat infants, children and young adults.

Young people’s access to mental healthcare was significantly worse than that of adults according to the report.

The finding is alarming because more young people are coming up through the criminal justice system. People with untreated and undiagnosed mental health problems are more likely to end up breaking the law.

While many studies disprove an automatic link between mental health and crime, people who suffer from conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are more likely to offend if these conditions go untreated. If you or a family member is facing Arizona criminal court proceedings and suffer from mental illness, place contact the Garcia Law Firm at (602) 340-1999.