Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Public Invited To Mental Illness and Crime Discussion

Elected officials in criminal justice and leaders of nonprofits with a stake in addressing mental illness believe it’s time to talk publicly about the issues in Brevard County. 

They’re joining forces for “Mental and Health and Public Safety: A Community Conversation” on May 30, a daylong free forum dedicated to addressing a problem that statewide statistics document: 

1. About 170,000 people with serious mental illness are arrested and booked in to Florida jails annually. 

2. About $365 million is spent housing people with mental illness in county jails. 

3. People with mental illness represent 5 percent of the total population but 17 percent of the prison population. 

“It is vital to the safety and security of our community that we all work together on mental health issues. Providing training and information about court resources is an important part of addressing those issues,”  State Attorney Phil Archer said.

“According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 24 percent of state prisoners and 21 percent of local jail inmates have a recent history of mental illness. It is in society’s best interest that we solve the problem of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system,” Public Defender Blaise Trettis added.

The featured speaker will be Peter Earley, a former Washington Post reporter and author of “CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness.” 

"Current mental health issues can impact each of us in almost every aspect of our daily lives," said Sheriff Wayne Ivey.  "Today's law enforcement officers must be completely familiar with mental health disorders to effectively recognize those who need assistance." 

Also of concern are veterans dealing with mental illness. “With so many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan – a high percentage with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, we not only need to educate the veterans but also the families and members of our justice system," National Veterans Homeless Support founder George Taylor, Sr. said.  "It is a hidden disorder and we need to get the veterans in a better place without them becoming a statistic.” 

The event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at the Simpkins Center at Brevard Community College, 1519 Clearlake Road, Cocoa.  Tickets are free but required through eventbrite.com

Continuing legal education units ($75), and continuing education units are available. 

For information, contact Cordial at gailc@flpic.org or 321-453-8825.