The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

Fight crime with health care legislation

Children in a Primary Education School in Paris
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This article is a real eye-opener.  I read this with enthusiasm because this article is very much in line with most of my own thinking about these issues.  I have always thought that we spend all of our money and time dealing with just symptoms and never ever address the actual root problem.  So, you can imagine my surprise when, after reading this article, I read the last lines that identified the authors.  Not Social Workers, not Doctors, not nurses, not therapists but the heads of police in three different crime-ridden areas.  WOW!  Now that is progress in my book.



Those of us in law enforcement are getting pretty good at finding repeat, violent offenders and locking them up so they can’t do any more harm for a while.

That doesn’t undo the pain victims endure. Far too many lives are still being lost to crime and violence in America.

What if there were ways not only to reduce crime and violence, but also to save taxpayer dollars in the process?

The answer is: There are.

Research shows that targeted approaches delivered by health professionals to kids can do just that, and our nation has a unique opportunity right now, through health reform, to ensure those programs reach more of the kids who need them.

What does providing blood pressure medication or helping Grandma control her diabetes have to do with crime? Not much.

What does reducing child abuse and neglect, substance abuse, or mental and behavioral disorders have to do with crime? Plenty. These problems have consequences for public safety, not just public health.

Consider these statistics:

  • Suffering abuse or neglect increases the likelihood by nearly 30% that an at-risk child will commit a violent offense when he or she grows up. The problem doesn’t end there, since survivors of abuse and neglect, as adults, are also far more likely to abuse their own kids.
  • Nationally, one in 10 youth suffers from some sort of mental health problem, yet 75% to 80% of them do not receive needed treatment.
  • Nearly half of boys and two-thirds of girls in juvenile justice facilities have psychiatric disorders, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.  How do we end the cycle of child abuse and crime?  Sending a trained nurse to coach a teenage mom to cope with the stress of parenting and become a better mother can help.
  • One such program, the Nurse Family Partnership, uses trained nurses to offer voluntary advice to low-income mothers who otherwise have little or no help in learning to provide basic care to their baby.  A study of the partnership showed that it cut child abuse and neglect by half.   Children of the coached mothers were 60% less likely to be arrested than children from similar families who did not receive the visits.
  • A separate study found that the Nurse Family Partnership saved $18,000 on average per family.  How can we address kids with mental and behavioral problems that can lead to crime?
  • The Incredible Years program is an initiative that has proven to reduce overly aggressive behavior among young children for nearly two-thirds of families enrolled.   Successful treatment means the children will be less likely to require special education and more likely to become socially well-adjusted and avoid behavior that can land them in the back of a squad car as a juvenile.
  • Even when kids have begun to commit offenses, a treatment approach may be what’s needed to get them back on track. Many parents of troubled kids have their own troubles, but, if given the right tools, they are our best bet for turning these kids around.
  • Functional Family Therapy provides interventions for troubled teens already involved with drugs or crime and includes the parents so they hold their kids accountable. Research shows that the program cut repeat arrests among juveniles in half, saving the public, on average, $50,000 for every youth treated.
  • Despite the evidence, each of these effective interventions reaches only a small fraction of the kids who could benefit from them.And that’s where health reform legislation can help. Legislation that expands evidence-based home visits will help stop the cycle of child abuse and violence. Health reform that provides kids with greater access to mental health screening, diagnosis and treatment will mean more kids will get help before problems start.If we are serious about getting tough on crime, we must get serious about passing health care reform that includes effective interventions for at-risk kids and their parents. It is real crime prevention that deserves support.

    Warren Evans is Detroit’s police chief. William Lansdowne is police chief in San Diego. Robert Parker is director of the Miami-Dade Police Department.

    You can read the original article here

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    December 1, 2009 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , ,

    1 Comment »

    1. I loved your article – it was some great information. I think you and your readers might be interested in another article I found on Medical and Dry Eyes.

      Comment by Shirley | March 9, 2010 | Reply

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