Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) joined 26 of his bicameral Congressional colleagues in introducing the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act, bipartisan legislation that will make communities safer by improving access to mental health services for people in the criminal justice system who need treatment. U.S. Representative Richard Nugent (R-FL) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives last week, and U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the identical Senate version today. By helping the nation's criminal justice system work with its mental health system, this bill will help reduce the rates of repeat offenders and improve safety for law enforcement officials.
"As a Congressman in the House of Representatives, I co-authored the Second Chance Act to help former inmates turn their lives around, become productive members of society, and strengthen communities. In order to enhance those efforts, we need to make sure that those who need access to mental health treatment do not go unnoticed so that they receive the proper care they deserve," Portman said. "This bill encourages safer communities not only by increasing access to mental health care treatment, but also by ensuring that our law enforcement officers are properly trained to handle mental health crises."
The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act would improve outcomes for the criminal justice system, the mental health system, and for those with mental health conditions by doing the following, among other things:
Extending the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA) for five years, thus continuing support for mental health courts and crisis intervention teams;
Authorizing investments in veterans treatment courts, which serve arrested veterans who suffer from PTSD, substance addiction, and other mental health conditions;
Increasing focus on corrections-based programs, such as transitional services that reduce recidivism rates and screening practices that identify inmates with mental health conditions; and
Supporting the development of curricula for police academies and orientations.
Portman cosponsored Franken's Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act in the Senate, along with Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). In the House, Rep. Nugent's bill is cosponsored by Representatives David Ciciline (D-RI), John Conyers (D-MI), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
In addition, over 200 organizations from across the nation have endorsed the bill, including leading law enforcement and corrections groups, veterans' services organizations, and mental health advocates.