LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) _ New Mexico lawmakers are looking at better ways to treat people suffering from both mental illnesses and drug addictions.
A group of judges and law enforcement officers who deal with the mentally ill met with the legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee at New Mexico State University to discuss the limited options for those referred by the court for treatment that have dual diagnosis, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports (http://bit.ly/1gD8utE).
“There’s very few places that take both of them,” said District Court Judge Marci Beyer. “And unfortunately, they are a lot of the same population. So people with mental illness who don’t get the proper treatment often self-medicate with drugs and become addicted.”
Another problem is a lack of beds for adults that are found too mentally ill to stand trial. Beyer said when someone is found not competent to stand trial but dangerous, the only option is to send them to a county detention center.
Las Cruces Police Sgt. Robert McCord said beds at state hospitals were reduced from about 1,300 more than two decades ago to fewer than 100 currently. In comparison, the number of interactions officers have with people suffering from mental illness has increased from 700 in 2011 to about twice that many this year.
Chris Barela, head of the detention center, said about half of the inmates being held at any given time have a history of mental illness, but his budget for mental health services is $5 million to $6 million annually.
“Because the state won’t do it, we’re the ones trying to treat them back to competency,” Barela said. “A jail environment is not the best place to try to be treating people back to competency.”