Thu | Sep 20, 2018

NY expands mental health safety net for released inmates

Published:Thursday | March 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM
A 2014 file photo of Daniel St. Hubert, an ex-inmate,who was accused in a knife attack that left a six-year-old boy dead and a six-year-old girl critically injured in a public housing building that didn't have security cameras.


New York is expanding its efforts to make sure inmates who receive mental-health treatment in prison aren't cut off from such care when they are released.

Discharge planning that included medication, enrolment in Medicaid and initial clinic appointments had only extended to the 3,500 to 4,000 inmates with a serious mental illness or who were getting treatment at the time of their release.

A new law that took effect last month expands that to 3,000 more inmates discharged annually who got treatment sometime in the previous three years.

Sponsors of the measure said patients stabilised in prison shouldn't backslide for lack of psychiatric care. They cited the case of a mentally ill ex-inmate who stabbed two children in a Brooklyn elevator last year, killing a six-year-old, only nine days after leaving state prison without medications or contact with a service provider.

The law also clarifies that parole officers can petition for psychiatric hospital commitments for parolees they consider dangerously unstable and needing to be held in a secure facility. It's another alternative besides a return to prison, said Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, lead sponsor.