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JCCI Examines Jail As Mental Health Service Provider

Tara Wildes

Using the criminal justice system as a provider of mental health services is a huge concern to across the country, including in Northeast Florida.Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) is studying the stigma of mental illness and how mentally ill people are cared for on the First Coast.

At a meeting Wednesday on the criminal justice system and its evolution into the default treatment system for the mentally ill, Dr. Frank Scarvy related the story of his 44-year-old daughter. She suffers from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The 76-year-old retired radiologist said he’s frustrated with a system that routinely locks her up for minor things like trespassing.

“You know, she’s asked to leave certain businesses or establishments and she resists. She winds up with an arrest record, and it prevents her from getting housing and she might be able to get part-time employment except for this,” he said.

Scarvy said he wishes police would divert people like his daughter into treatment programs instead.

St. Johns County Sheriff David Schoar said they would if they could.

“If you take the population of our jail. We run, let’s say a 500 person a day average—I’d say 20 percent of that population, if there was a good mental health, substance abuse treatment program available, they could be diverted out of that jail,” Schoar said.

JCCI’s Community Mental Health Committee will hold a total of 17 fact-finding meetings on a variety of mental health issues. The group will release its conclusions and recommendations in August.

You can follow Cyd Hoskinson on Twitter @cydwjctnews.

Cyd Hoskinson began working at WJCT on Valentine’s Day 2011.