The Mentally Ill Should Not Be Stuck In Jails and Prisons - Much More Can Be Done Says Virginia Sollars, Author Of 'And Some Will Triumph'
Mental health crisis intervention teams are being created to help evaluate offenders before they are jailed.
Florida passed a new law that will direct the mentally ill to treatment programs, rather than jail. Cindy Schwartz, director of jail diversion for the 11th Judicial District’s Criminal Mental Health Project was quoted as saying "It’s all about creating a plan that enables them to exist in the community without being a threat to public safety, to
others and themselves.”
John Snook, TAC's Executive Director believes the problem exists because there are not enough beds for the mentally ill.
The University of Memphis says that crisis intervention teams now exist in 2,632 jurisdictions. Over 9000 officers have received CIT training in Ohio.
Texas funds 30 stand-alone mental health clinics.
Larry Fitch, law professor at UM who has advised the American Bar Association and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors on issues of criminal justice and mental illness believes the solution is a well-resource mental health system.
Virginia Sollars, author of 'And Some Will Triumph' spent decades working as a Psychiatric RN in the correctional mental health system. She believes much more can and should be done.
"Crises Intervention Training (CIT) for police officers and deputies is great and sorely needed as most get a few hours of training during orientation and learn in the field," Sollars stated. "Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES Units) are also a wonderful idea. According to claims by the Alameda Model in Ca. this has enabled 75% of psychiatric individuals to achieve enough stability to enable them to either go home or to a community based program within twenty-four hours. However, I have no statistics telling me how long they remain home, in these units, or out of jail. These programs lull us into believing that all will be well with the mental health crises that is gripping our country and filling our emergency rooms."
"Though police officers with their new training may be better equipped at deescalating a crises situation with a mentally ill person, still, the fact remains that most of the mentally ill will end up in the jail system. There they will await state competency evaluation, if not incarcerated for a minor crime. Since the state is usually out of beds, they end up staying in jail for a long time. And let’s face it, forty hours of training is a drop in an ocean in dealing with the mentally ill. I have been a psychiatric nurse for over 36 years, 26 In corrections and at times it took all my years of training to make a situation safe. I believe it is a good start, but that’s it. I think officers should be more knowledgeable, therefore I believe college courses are in order. They should have a basis of what psychiatry and the many mental disorders are about. You cannot deescalate a paranoid schizophrenic who is hearing voices, sometimes telling him/her commands to hurt others or himself the same way you would a person suffering from a manic episode from bi-polar disorder. No two situations are ever alike, nor should be treated as such."
"As to the PES units, again all well and good. But where are these community based programs and what do they offer and to how many? Are you going to tell me that a floridly psychotic person is going to be okay in them? I still believe that what is really needed is state run psychiatric hospitals, like we had in the past, with lock down units."
"Crises Intervention Teams also assist police officers, but unfortunately most work banker’s hours and many are social workers who are not equipped to handle a crises situation, it is not within their realm of training. Even with psychiatric nurses available, sometimes it just takes too long to get there to diffuse an ongoing situation."
"Also, the mentally ill have rights. I understand that in some states their charges will be dropped if they follow a program, and even if they do for a while, I can assure you most will drop out, especially if drugs are involved. I have worked psychiatric emergency units, I even worked a mobile unit where we went into condemned buildings hoping to keep the mentally ill out of the hospitals and I know many of them, if not most, do not want to take medication. "
"I don’t want to downplay what is being done, thank God something is, but again I do not want people believing that these are all the answers."
Sollars uses her captivating and sometimes shocking stories of fact-based fiction to reveal the stark truths that lie behind the curtain of today’s current issues- the fundamental facts often obscured by our headline culture. Her gift for raw storytelling takes readers backstage, where they will experience, in vivid 3-D the challenges her semi-fictional characters must face. She brings the truth into the light, and lays bare the stunning reality behind these stories in ways that mere headlines could never achieve.
As a psychiatric nurse, Virginia journeyed inside the minds of the mentally ill. She not only allows her readers to participate in the day to day struggles that ensue behind the heavy steel doors of the correctional facility, but takes her readers into the thoughts, fears and secrets of the psychiatric inmates. Virginia explains the reasons why the criminal justice system has become the dumping ground for the mentally ill and why there are so few beds available to them on the outside, a matter of great concern in the United States.
Sollars' book has received rave reviews from readers. Kirkus Reviews said the book is ….” a remarkable timeline of the treatment of mental illness in the past 40 years, and it’s a triumphant account of her boldness as a mother, nurse, and woman. At a time when mental health is in the forefront of conversations about our health care system, her story is one of hope."
One reader stated, "Absolutely the best book I’ve read in years, uncensored look into correctional mental health, patients, inmates and the professionals who deal with some of society’s most troubled criminals, their day to day struggles all interwoven within a gripping story of murder and suspense. A must read!" Another said, "Awesome story! While the story keeps you turning the pages to see what happens next, the real plight of the mental health patients in a correctional setting is heartbreaking.
Virginia Sollars is available for media interviews and can be reached using the information below or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. 'And Some Will Triumph' is available at online retailers. More information is available at her website.
Virginia Frusteri Sollars was raised in Brooklyn, New York, and became a registered nurse in 1980, working as a psychiatric nurse for most of her career. She worked in the jail system for twenty-six years, caring for and treating the mentally ill. She continues to advocate for the mentally ill though her presentations and radio shows advising people of the plight of the mentally ill.
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