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Weekly Address — August 8, 2019

From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our great nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.

In September, a ribbon cutting is scheduled in Jonesboro that will affect law enforcement agencies in 12 east Arkansas counties.

It’s the opening of a Crisis Stabilization Unit, where police can take mentally ill people for immediate treatment.

Most police officers can tell you of encounters with people who need to be off the streets because of erratic and frightening behavior, caused by a mental health crisis. Often, when you put them in jail without medication or treatment, their behavior gets even worse.

The legislature approved the creation of four Crisis Stabilization Units, so that the police have a safe place to bring people going through a mental health breakdown.

There is one in Fort Smith, in Little Rock and in Fayetteville. In September, Jonesboro officials will open the fourth.

Funding of the mental health units goes hand in hand with additional training of police officers, especially training to identify mental health problems as opposed to behaviors caused by abuse of drugs and alcohol.

A tragic death in Van Buren County emphasizes the importance of training police officers to recognize people suffering from a mental health crisis.

A man had a car wreck and the police took him to jail instead of a local hospital. He hung himself in his cell. Now, his sister has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the county and its health provider.

I cannot comment on the merits of her case, but I remember that a similar lawsuit filed in western

Arkansas about 20 years ago was successful.

As a result, the state had to make wholesale changes in its admission policies at the State Hospital, in order to make room for inmates who needed mental evaluations.

The opening of the Crisis Stabilization Units, and the additional training our police officers, is excellent news for Arkansas.

From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.


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