Ana Lastra & Anthony Brousseau
A mental health advocacy organization is asking Minnesota's governor-elect to repeal a recent bulletin from the Department of Human Services ending treatment for mentally ill defendants found incompetent to stand trial in felony and gross misdemeanor cases.
DHS announced Tuesday it would end the Competency Restoration Program, which has been in operation since 2006.
The program was designed to educate mentally ill defendants who have been civilly committed to a state-run facility to be able to assist in their own defense.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness sent a letter Wednesday to Tim Walz, saying implementation of the bulletin "will be detrimental to people living with mental illnesses involved in the criminal justice system."
In the DHS bulletin, the agency said it voluntarily started providing the service through a 25-bed program. The department said they are now averaging 120 patients who have been declared incompetent in three locations.
"As this program has grown, over-retention of patients who no longer need inpatient mental health treatment has been a growing issue and is a barrier to other individuals receiving access to such care," DHS said.
"While this will open up beds in state operated programs it does not account for the fact that there are no community competency restoration programs," the letter from NAMI states. "This will result in people with mental illnesses returning to jail."
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