Rep. Saunders has introduced HB 1028 concerning mental health care for released inmates. It directs the Indiana Department of Correction to assist inmates with obtaining an appointment with a physician or psychiatrist for evaluation within 30 days of the inmate’s release date. It also requires the DOC to provide the offender with enough of the offender’s medication to last until the evaluation. (Presumably the evaluation and the medications are related to the inmate’s mental health condition, but the legislation isn’t necessarily specific on that point.)
It’s maybe a drop in the bucket, but it’s a move in the right direction. Continuity of care is a big problem with inmates, particularly with respect to mental health. Jails and prisons become the mental health providers of last resort (or maybe first resort — our mental health infrastructure isn’t exactly robust). As the mental health condition deteriorates, the person will often do something that transgresses lawful behavior and find themselves in the justice system. Jails and prisons don’t provide the best mental health care, but often what they provide is better than what the person gets on the outside. Being released with no plan for maintaining the person’s mental health increases the likelihood that the person’s mental health is going to decline and, consequently, they’ll end up back in jail.