President Signs Domenici Bill to Help Mentally Ill Offenders, Law Enforcement
-- New Grants to Help Law Enforcement Deal with Mentally Ill --
President Bush on Tuesday signed into law a bill authored by U.S. Senator Pete Domenici that creates a new federal grant program to help law enforcement personnel more adequately respond to mentally ill juvenile and adult offenders.
The new law, the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act (S.2304), would also reauthorize an existing grant program to assist the mentally ill accused of nonviolent offenses. S.2304 was introduced by Domenici late last year and is cosponsored by Senators Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).
"I am very happy that this important program has been reauthorized. It is a continued step in our march to ensure better treatment for the mentally ill who get caught up in the criminal justice system for nonviolent offenses," Domenici said.
"The existing grant program has been useful, and now we will build on it by providing resources to help law enforcement and the courts better understand how to address and handle the problems and situations posed by defendants who have mental health problems," Domenici said.
The new law authorizes $75 million in grants to address the needs of mentally ill individuals in the justice system. These grants will help state and local governments create or expand mental health courts, treatment and training programs to help address the needs of mentally ill offenders and reduce repeat offenses.
It also authorizes an additional $10 million for law enforcement training grants to teach law enforcement how to recognize and react to situations involving mentally ill persons.
Last year, Domenici successfully secured nearly $188,000 for the Santa Fe Mental Health Court as part of the FY2008 Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Bill. Domenici visited the specialty court in August 2007, which utilizes a separate docket and judicial supervision to discipline individuals with mental illness who have committed offenses. He has also secured funding in the past to support a similar court in Bernalillo County.
Earlier this month, Bush signed into law the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act would require health insurance plans that offer mental health coverage to provide the same financial and treatment coverage offered for other physical illnesses. The legislation was developed in talks with mental health, insurance and business organizations to craft compromise legislation, which Domenici and Kennedy sponsored.