Have to do more on mental health

A recent two-day series of stories by News staff writer Julie Riddle showed us public officials have few tools at their disposal to help people whose mental illness brings them into contact with the criminal justice system.

At any given time, some 40% of Alpena County Jail inmates have a diagnosed mental health condition, Riddle reported.

Police and prosecutors often find themselves with no tools but incarceration when they are put in the position of having to protect public safety and help someone with a mental illness.

There aren’t enough places for treatment, and there are few tools outside of the criminal justice system to compel someone into what treatment there is.

The problem is not unique to Northeast Michigan.

Lawmakers both nationally and in Lansing have tried for years to address the issue.

But the challenges of our rural health care system exacerbate the issues.

We urge lawmakers everywhere to continue the work of making sure help is available when help — rather than punishment — is what’s needed.

All of our communities would be better off for it.



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