WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) ─ As Congress works to improve the nation’s criminal justice system, one lawmaker is introducing a bill that would provide support for those with mental health needs after they’re released from prison.
Congressman David Trone, D-Maryland, is sponsoring the Crisis Stabilization and Community Re-entry Act, which would provide funding for a partnership between law enforcement officers and mental health professionals aimed at helping released prisoners re-enter the community.
“Don’t just throw somebody out of jail after 10 years, 20 years, and say ‘good luck,'” Trone said.
Trone said he wants to ensure former inmates return to society and not to prison.
“We’ve got an incarceration system where we’re spending $80 billion every year, and yet 75% of the folks recidivate,” Trone said. “On top of that, we’ve got a failed mental health system.”
Trone said improving mental health services may hold the key and his new legislation would provide the much-needed funding.
“What we’re trying to do here in this bill is drive funding to community groups to help these returning citizens that have mental health challenges stabilize their lives,” Trone explained.
The proposed bill has bipartisan support, but some lawmakers believe a lot has already been done to address the issue in recent years and those solutions deserve a chance to play out.
“I think I have a responsibility to make sure what we’ve already done is functioning right,” Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said.
In 2018, President Donald Trump signed a bill package boosting access to addiction treatment and fighting overprescription of opioids. Both of those problems impact former inmates.
“We just passed this legislation within the last 18 months and I don’t want to give the legislation credit for it, but it seems like for the first time in the last 12 months we’ve turned around the deaths as a result of the opioid epidemic,” Grassley said.
Despite his reservations on the timing, Grassley believes Trone’s efforts are a step in the right direction.