ATLANTA — County sheriffs across Georgia are awaiting results of an ongoing study aimed at determining how to better care for mentally ill people who are accused of crime.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is partnering with the Georgia chapter of the National Alliance of Mentally Ill for the study, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The project is designed to prevent the acutely mentally ill from routinely being incarcerated, GBI Director Vernon Keenan said. Solutions will benefit mentally ill people, Keenan said. And better approaches will also result in significant savings for taxpayers if ways are found to avoid arresting people and jailing them multiple times, often for minor offenses, he said.
The study involves patients from Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah. They’re assigned to caseworkers who monitor their medications and lifestyle. The two-year program ends next year.
“We’re doing absolutely the wrong thing by incarcerating people with mental illness,” said Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry, president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association. “There has to be some community-based-response system that is set up not just in a few counties in Georgia but all of Georgia.
“It is not right to shackle a mentally ill person and throw them in the back of a patrol car. It is not humane.”