[Hpn] Community Calls For Treatment Instead of Jails

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Wed, 06 Dec 2000 22:53:24 -0700


A MEDIA ADVISORY
From:  The Coalition on Homelessness
For more information, contact  Jennifer Friedenbach  (415) 346-3740,
HUNDREDS "DIE-IN" PROTEST OVER
CRIMINALIZATION OF MENTAL ILLNESS
Community Calls For Treatment Instead of Jails

SAN FRANCISCO  (Tuesday, December 12, 2000)  -- On Tuesday, December 12,
2:00 p.m. protesters will gather at Civic Center Plaza to protest the City's
continued criminal negligence of people with mental health issues. Mental
health consumers and their supporters will attend the protest, and demand
that in light of this economy, there is no need to continue forsaking mental
health services. The lack of mental health treatment has meant that
individuals end up at the hands of the police, are locked up at the hospital
and in jails, or end up dead.

The Coalition on Homelessness is calling for humane procedures when dealing
with people with mental illnesses. These include a demand for full
implementation of Police Crisis Intervention, a training program for police
on how to respond to people with mental illnesses. The SFPD received funding
for this program last year, but has thus far refused to implement it.
Protesters will also be demanding no implementation of involuntary
outpatient commitment, and consumer directed mental health treatment on
demand.

Mental health services have been slowly chipped away at over the past three
decades, and the result is thousands of people with mental health issues
being denied services and living on the streets. Last year, the Department
and the Mayor's office proposed severe cuts to the mental health system, and
conceded at the last minute to restore only some of the cuts, due to intense
community pressure.

At the same time, 1 in 4 police calls are for responses to people with
mental health issues or "bizarre behavior". The nations prisons and jails
held an estimated 283,800 people with mental illnesses in 1998, and
homelessness was more double among people with mental illnesses than among
others.  
  
According to Marykate Connor, Director of Caduceus Outreach Services "Given
the advances in psychiatric treatment, it should be unacceptable in this
economy that anyone should suffer, become homeless, incarcerated or die due
to the effects of a treatable condition simply because they are poor. "

The Coalition on Homelessness issued a report last spring, entitled "Locked
Out", outlining the shortcomings of the mental health system. After
interviewing hundreds of homeless people with mental illnesses, the report
found that only a third of those seeking treatment actually received it, and
that over half were dissatisfied with the services they received. The
Coalition, along with numerous community members have since embarked on an
effort to reform and rebuild the mental health system.

These demands have been endorsed by Arriba Juntos, Caduceus Outreach
Services, California Network of Mental Health Clients, Center on Juvenile
and Criminal Justice, Communities United Against Violence, Disability
Advocates Minority Organization, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Food
Not Bombs, Homeless Prenatal Project, Lindesmith Center,  Mental Health
Association, Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition, National Lawyer's Guild,
POOR Magazine, SF Tenants Union, STREET SPIRIT, Swords to Plowshares, Save
our Services, and many more.

##30##