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Mentally Ill, in Prison and Outside

In Saturday’s edition of The New York Times, Odyssey House President & CEO Dr. Peter Provet is one of several experts commenting on a recent article examining the growing number of people with severe mental illness who are coming into contact with the criminal justice system in the absence of adequate health care services.

To the Editor:
Police Confront Rising Number of Mentally Ill” (front page, April 2), there is no mention of the intersection of drug abuse and mental illness, and how such use exacerbates psychiatric symptoms and leaves the individual far more unstable, symptomatic and volatile (though not necessarily more violent.)
As services for the mentally ill retract, greater disturbance will be evidenced, and increased demands will be placed on emergency personnel, police officers and prison guards. Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy to secure adequate treatment funding to confront one of our biggest social challenges: the degree to which self-harm and harm to society are compounded by untreated and undertreated substance abuse and mental health disorders.

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