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State wants more diversion of mentally ill from jail to treatment

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The state is seeking bids for pilot projects to divert mentally ill people from jails, as well as get them better treatment while in jail.

The projects will seek to address the needs of mentally ill people at every step – from arrest to after incarceration.

Steven Mays is with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

He says one thing that's needed is better training of police and guards to recognize the signs of mental illness.

"So they can address these issues much quicker and it doesn't lead to a situation where they are at risk or the inmate is at risk," says Mays.

Mays says Kent, Oakland, and Kalamazoo counties already have well-developed diversion programs in place.

A related state goal is to have all 83 counties in Michigan do mental health screening of people who come into contact with the criminal justice system.

State officials hope to start the pilot projects early next year.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.