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Minnesota's lack of psychiatric care may spur growth of jail, prison populations

Mental health issues are extremely prevalent amongst Americans. In fact, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, approximately 25 percent of U.S. adults and 20 percent of juveniles ages 13 to 18, report having symptoms related to some sort of mental disorder. Some of the most common mental ailments include anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depression.

Those living with a mental disorder are often ill-equip to cope with the disruptive and pervasive side effects. Unable to manage the negative emotions or disruptive and incessant thoughts, many end up in hospital psychiatric wards, county jails, state prisons and juvenile detention centers.

NAMI reports that across the U.S., more than 40 percent of state and local prisoners have documented mental health problems. For juvenile offenders the numbers are much higher, with an estimated 70 percent suffering from one or more disruptive mental health conditions.

These astounding numbers make the abrupt closure of one Minnesota mental health treatment facility that much more troubling. Serving individuals in five counties, Riverwood Centers provided psychiatric care, counseling and therapy for some 3,000 Minnesota residents, many of whom live in rural areas and have nowhere else to turn.

The former executive director at Riverwood claims the mental treatment facility was forced to close due to funding cuts. The facility's closure was abrupt and most clients were not notified. In addition to providing much-needed services such as family therapy and crisis services, Riverwood also provided counseling and rehabilitation services for registered sex offenders.

Without the vital services provided by Riverwood, one country sheriff fears many of the 3,000 clients who previously sought counseling and treatment will end up in jail or prison stating the closure "has an effect on law enforcement and public safety just because people don’t necessarily get all the assistance they need or should have".

Minnesota residents who have been arrested and face criminal charges would be wise to retain a criminal defense attorney. In cases where an individual has a history of mental health issues, a defense attorney can work to ensure charges are dismissed or reduced and that an individual receives the psychiatric treatment and therapy he or she needs.

Source: The Star Tribune, "Minn. mental health center shuts down, stranding thousands," Chris Serres, March 17, 2014Kanabec County Times, "Mental health center’s closure causes concern," Kirsten Faurie, March 20, 2014National Alliance on Mental Illness, "Mental Illness FACTS AND NUMBERS," 2014

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