Rep. Whiteford spearheads plan to address mental health of prisoners after release

Categories: Whiteford News

Establishing discharge plan would ensure seamless transition for parolees

State Rep. Mary Whiteford today testified before the Michigan House Judiciary Committee in support of her plan to ensure people who are treated for mental health and substance abuse disorders in prison continue receiving treatment upon their release.

Whiteford, of Casco Township, said about 20 percent of the inmates in the state prison system require mental health services.

“Many people with mental health and substance abuse disorders lack access to necessary services after they’re released from prison,” Whiteford said. “Too often, this results in a revolving cycle of involvement with the justice system.”

Her legislation would require the Michigan Department of Corrections to create a pre-release mental health discharge plan for each prisoner receiving mental health services or medication before he or she is released on parole.

The discharge plan would include:

  • A mental health assessment.
  • Identification of risk factors related to transportation, housing and family stress.
  • An appointment scheduled after release with a mental health professional.
  • If the prisoner is taking mental health medications, steps that will provide the prisoner with medications between his or her release and appointment.
  • An assessment of whether the prisoner is eligible for Medicaid or Medicare.

Whiteford, a registered nurse who chairs the House’s budget subcommittee for the Department of Health and Human Services, said she is committed to working with her colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to set aside funding to establish the discharge program.

“It’s no secret we spend too much on our prisons. The corrections system accounts for about 20 percent of the general fund dollars in our state budget,” Whiteford said. “Creating a pathway for people requiring mental health services to successfully transition back into the community will reduce recidivism and prevent our prison system from being used as a costly mental health treatment center.”

House Bill 4700 remains under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee.