By John Best
An estimated 2 million people with serious mental illnesses are admitted into jails each year in the United States, according to data from the Stepping Up Initiative.
Northampton County Council passed a resolution Thursday that seeks to reduce the number of mentally ill people in the county prison.
The resolution also authorizes the county and its workers to participate in Stepping Up, a national initiative launched in May 2015 that aims to reduce the number of mentally ill people held behind bars.
The initiative was established jointly with the American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Counties and the Council of State Governments.
Once incarcerated, individuals with mental illnesses tend to stay longer in jail and upon release are at a higher risk of returning to incarceration than those without those illnesses, according to initiative literature.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services operates six state hospitals with services for individuals with mental illness. In the last 20 years, the state hospital population has decreased by 70 percent, from nearly 5,000 people with mental illnesses to 1,568, according to DHS.