Missouri has about 285 people in jail or out on bond that are being supported by the state’s Department of Mental Health for treatment. It’s a number that continues to rise.
The state has them go through competency restoration, a process that the state must do if someone has been found incapable of standing trial.
“And if they’re not competent to proceed, then they will stay with us longer while we get them competent to live in the community,” said department Director Valerie Huhn. “So that blue line it’s not going down yet, it’s going up.”
She told a committee of state lawmakers that workforce is becoming a barrier that prevents the department from performing the services they need to rehabilitate residents properly. One solution she’s working on includes creating crisis capacity to offset staffing shortages.
Huhn also said that Missouri’s state operated habilitation centers for crisis stabilization is an option.
“To the extent that we can find transfers out of our state psychiatric hospitals that are appropriate to live in those settings and are ready for discharge, we will be transferring individuals out of those settings and into other settings where they can be successful in the least restrictive environment,” said Huhn. “That opens up beds for me in the state’s psychiatric hospitals and helps me address the 285 people.”
She wants the state to boost funding to expand the mobile team that goes into jails to provide initial care to people so they can stand trial.
According to Huhn, 68 people were restored to competency over the past year through jail-based competency restoration.
“Those programs are not going to work for everybody, but one of the things we know with jail-based is that if we can at least start, maybe we get somebody when we can actually get them into the state’s psychiatric hospital, they’re in a better position then they would be if we weren’t doing anything,” she said. “The same for the outpatient in the mobile forensic response.”
The National Institutes of Health says jail-based competency restoration addresses the backlog at forensic hospitals across the U.S., as the number of people in need of restoration outgrow available beds.