How to get more money for social services

An idea prompted by an article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal describing new programs to help police deal with mentally ill people, and reporting police concerns about being expected to be social workers and mental health counselors:

Cops are forced to provide social services because it’s always possible to secure public money for policing and always difficult to secure public money for dealing with unsympathetic populations.  If police unions and police commissioners and police boards agitated for increased social-service funding, cops could go back to being cops.  How can we in the nonprofit/social service sector encourage this unlikely but powerful ally?

Prisons have similarly become the de facto replacement for mental hospitals, because few politicians dare vote against a new prison.  It’s good to have treatment facilities available to prisoners but that doesn’t mean all people who need treatment should be imprisoned.  The penal system is supposed to punish or rehabilitate the wicked, not stabilize the deranged.  Again, if foundations interested in penal reform or mental health care could bring together social service agencies and corrections officials, perhaps the political power of the latter could accomplish what the former can’t: adequate funding for state psychiatric facilities.  Imagine the advocates’ rallying cry: "Let prisons be prisons!"

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4 Responses to “How to get more money for social services”

  1. Fred Friedman Says:

    Cook county jail is the largest mental health ward in the state perhaps in the country.

    Prisons cannot just be prisons since it is easy to be arrested because you are Mentally Ill..

    I did not read the article you mentioned but do participate in CIT Crisis Intervention Training for Chicago police officers. It is needed because the methods police are trained to use simply do not work with people with active mental illness symptoms.

  2. Fred Friedman Says:

    Cook county jail is the largest mental health ward in the state perhaps in the country.

    Prisons cannot just be prisons since it is easy to be arrested because you are Mentally Ill..

    I did not read the article you mentioned but do participate in CIT Crisis Intervention Training for Chicago police officers. It is needed because the methods police are trained to use simply do not work with people with active mental illness symptoms.

  3. celeste w @studio 501c Says:

    This is a very interesting strategy. I wonder if anyone anywhere is using it.

    Congrats on your blog. As someone who met you a number of years ago, I was delighted to discover it. What a great addition to the nonprofit blogosphere.

  4. Nonprofiteer Says:

    Delighted to have your participation. I think lots of places are using this strategy (of meeting the need for social services through the penal system), but few of them are acknowledging it. And the best public policy isn’t usually made unconsciously.

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