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A Father’s Plea for Care: Mental Health, Addiction and the Criminal Justice System

A father’s plea echoes the desperation of many families across the United States as they watch their loved ones, who are living with addictions and behavioral health issues, mired in the criminal justice system, when they should be receiving treatment services. (“My Daughter Needs Help, Not Jail: Mental Health, Addiction,” Hartford Courant, January 27, 2017).

David Klau is a lawyer whose daughter, Miri, has become entangled in the criminal justice system too many times to count. Klau knows Miri is bright and articulate. He also knows that she constantly has to juggle her mental health challenges with an addiction to heroin.

Her heroin addiction triggered a spiral of events that began in 2015 when Miri was arrested by an undercover cop pressing her to make a buy on his behalf. She was placed in a diversionary program, which she was unable to complete due to her mental health issues. As a result, she was tossed out onto the street and relapsed. Finally, Miri wound up back in court, facing an assistant district attorney and a judge who were totally unsympathetic to her needs.

In Miri’s case, both the diversionary program and court system were unequipped to provide adequate services for her mental health condition. Unfortunately, this is not unusual. Often, programs like these operate with a limited amount of funding and undertrained staff.

In an effort to improve the lives of justice-involved individuals suffering from mental health and substance use disorders, Mental Health First Aid USA is taking a stand. This program helps professionals and laypeople recognize and respond to the signs and symptoms of mental illness and refer people to treatment before it’s too late.

A better understanding of Miri’s condition might have saved her months in jail, too many trips to the courtroom and countless sleepless nights spent by her parents and all who care for her as they agonized over her well-being.

#BeTheDifference in your community. Get trained in Mental Health First Aid today.

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