Behind bars

“I run the largest mental health facility in Boulder County,” Joe Pelle told an audience near the State Capitol yesterday. “It’s called the county jail.”

Sheriff Pelle is not alone. An estimated two-thirds of the inmates in America’s jails have a mental health disorder.

Some of those behind bars face no charges at all. They’re taken into custody because they experience a mental health crisis, pose an imminent danger to themselves or others, and have nowhere else to go.

Is this the best we can do, Dave? Not by a long shot.

We’re urging state lawmakers to stop using jails for mental health holds, to provide more appropriate alternatives, and to put a higher priority on prevention and treatment. Learn more in a new report from the Governor’s Mental Health Hold Task Force (a panel we proposed last year).

We need to expand access to mental health care not only for those at risk of incarceration but for every Coloradan. Help us make that case by attending our Hill Day on Feb. 2, taking part in a webinar, or contacting your state representative and senator right now.

As Sheriff Pelle suggested, turning our jails into mental health institutions is one of the most expensive and least therapeutic decisions we could make. Let’s change course.