On 'Think': How Does Criminal Justice System Address Mental Illness? | KERA News

On 'Think': How Does Criminal Justice System Address Mental Illness?

Sep 17, 2013

How are the courts and mental health service providers working to address mental illness in the criminal justice system?

That was the topic of today’s “Think” at 1 p.m. on KERA-FM, 90.1. “Think” host Krys Boyd discussed the issue with Pete Earley, author of “Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness” and Ron Stretcher, director of criminal justice for Dallas County

Earley will also speak at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday at a luncheon in Dallas benefitting Metrocare, a North Texas nonprofit that helps people with mental illness development disabilities and severe emotional problems.

“I had no idea,” Earley writes in his book. “I’d been a journalist for thirty years and written extensively about crime and punishment and society. But I’d always been on the outside looking in. I had no idea what it was like to be on the inside looking out – until my son, Mike, was declared mentally ill.”

Read the first chapter here.

Here’s another excerpt:

One psychiatrist said he had bipolar disorder, another said he showed early stages of schizophrenia, a third said he had schizo-affective disorder. They prescribed a dizzying range of different drugs, different therapies, and, even worse, because he was an adult, I couldn’t simply swoop in and make medical decisions for him. An array of incompatible laws about patient rights stood in my way, like a line of trees.

But even that was nothing compared to what happened when Mike, suffering delusions, committed a crime and was arrested. Suddenly, the line of trees became a forest. The contradictions, the disparities, the Catch-22s, multiplied, until I began to despair.

“I just feel so damn helpless,” I told my wife, Patti, one night. “I want to do something, but I don’t know how to help him.”

KERA has reported on the search for solutions regarding mental illness in an ongoing project called Erasing the Stigma.  “Think” discussed issues related to mental illness in February.

Look back at KERA’s previous mental illness stories.

Last February, KERA TV and Radio sponsored a forum of speakers and experts to discuss mental illness. Watch the TV special below: