Mental Health Court Yields Positive Results Mentally ill criminal defendants who completed a special diversion program in District of Columbia Superior Court were less likely to reoffend, compared with mentally ill defendants who went through traditional criminal proceedings, according to a recent study. The study, published in June in Law and Human Behavior, tracked mentally ill defendants in the program and compared their rearrest record with mentally ill defendants who weren’t part of the program, which involves greater court supervision and the incentive of having criminal charges dismissed. The Mental Health Diversion Court program began in 2007. The study is part of a small but growing body of research on the effectiveness of mental health court programs, which, like the popular drug courts, focus on getting defendants treatment and keeping them out of jail. Studies published to date have been positive about the programs. As was the case with this latest study, however, the research was inconclusive as to why the program works.
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Concern as number of mental health patients placed in private hospitals rises by a third
Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, which saw 90 inpatient beds cut after six wards were shut in late 2011, increased its spending on private sector out-of-area placements from 933,330 in 2011-12 to 1.5m in 2012-13. A surge in demand in spring and autumn 2012 lay behind the increase, said a trust spokeswoman. Usage of private sector placements has reduced since November 2012, she added. Joe Godden, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, said the growing use of out-of-area placements was a concern. People are removed from their communities and support networks. There are many occasions where intensive, community-based support would be a better alternative to hospitalisation, but these facilities are so often non-existent or not sufficient, he said.
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Rethinking mental health in Africa
In a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in July, researchers in northern Uganda – which, starting in the late 1980s suffered a two-decade long war between the government and the rebel Lords’ Resistance Army – monitored the impact of group counselling on vulnerable groups such as victims of sexual and domestic violence, HIV-infected populations, and former abductees of the civil war. It found that those groups who engaged in group counselling were able to return and function markedly faster than those who did not receive counselling, while reducing their risks of developing long-term psychiatric conditions. “We need to be mentally healthy to get out of poverty,” Ethel Mpungu, the study’s lead researcher, told IRIN. The link between mental illness and persisting poverty is being made the world over.
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