In the absence of adequate access to health services, people with unmanaged mental health needs often intersect with law enforcement and spend time in jails, then cycling in and out of detention, homelessness, and joblessness. Calling 9-1-1 for a mental health emergency often results in a law enforcement response and a significantly heightened risk of injuries and fatalities. Mental Health Colorado launched Care Not Cuffs to demand a health-based response to a health care need and to contribute to community momentum toward putting the supports and services in place that yield healthier populations and prevent crises.
“Responding to the chronic and acute mental health needs of the population with police, sheriffs, and the criminal justice system is neither appropriate, nor healthy, nor sound fiscal policy. It’s discriminatory, harmful, and sometimes fatal.”
– Vincent Atchity, Mental Health Colorado President & CEO
The United States has only about 5% of the world’s population, yet almost 25% of the world’s incarcerated population—confining more people in jails and prisons per capita than any other country. More than half of all incarcerated people in the United States have mental health needs. People with untreated mental health needs are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians approached or stopped by law enforcement. The number of incarcerated people with mental health needs vastly exceeds the number of people receiving treatment in state psychiatric hospitals, making the criminal justice system the de facto mental health system.
A resolution to this crisis demands better public understanding of mental health and a rebalancing of community investment. The Care Not Cuffs campaign seeks to educate and build support for investing in preventative and supportive health care and reducing the need for spending on policing, courts, and incarceration. Mental Health Colorado launched the Care Not Cuffs campaign to increase public demand for a health-based response to health care needs, and to contribute to community momentum toward putting the supports and services in place that yield healthier populations and prevent crises.
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