House Bill 853 will provide mental health treatment alternatives to incarcerated people.
ATLANTA — Georgia State Representative Sandra Scott wants to make mental health treatment more accessible to people incarcerated in Georgia. The bill, HB 853, would provide an alternative to imprisonment for offenders struggling with mental illnesses.
According to Mental Health America (MHA), Georgia currently ranks last in the nation for mental health care. Rep. Scott’s new bill is a direct response to the overcrowding of mentally ill patients in Georgia prisons and the cost associated with keeping them incarcerated.
“Not only does it cost more than $35,000 a year to house mentally ill patients, but inmates with mental illness also don’t receive the mental health treatment needed to overcome their illness,” Rep. Scott said. .
According to Rep, Scott, the sheriffs want action.
“Sheriffs want something done about the number of mentally ill patients taking up space in jails,” Rep. Scott said.
HB 853 would give inmates an alternative to imprisonment for offenders struggling with mental illnesses.
A defendant who is eligible for public mental health services or Social Security disability insurance benefits due to a diagnosed serious mental illness could ask the court for a sentence that includes mental health treatment.
The bill would require an inmate to establish that he or she meets the criteria necessary to receive the alternative option HB 853. The court would then have to agree that the inmate could serve all or part of their sentence in a residential mental health treatment facility instead of a state prison or a county jail.
HB 853 would require correctional facilities to prepare a post-release mental health treatment plan six months prior to the inmate’s release. If applicable and deemed appropriate by the court, the plan may also include medication management, housing and substance abuse treatment services for the offender.