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A fine editorial letter from Donald Trunbaugh

New court serves homeless  |  Jan. 28, story
Mentally ill people need a court, too





The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) applauds the initiative
to establish a "homeless" court in Pinellas County demonstrated at the
Project Homeless Connect event.

Depending on the locale, studies have shown that nationwide 15 percent
of homeless people also have serious mental illnesses, such as
schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression. In metropolitan
areas like St. Petersburg, the percentage rises to as much as 50
percent.

In addition, many homeless people with serious mental illnesses are
often drug abusers. So it stands to reason that the drug courts are
also dealing with a significant number of people with mental illnesses.

Mental health courts originated in Broward County more than 10 years
ago. Why then, if the Pinellas County judiciary sees the value of drug
and, now, homeless courts, are they reluctant to express interest in a
nationally proven and often funded program of mental health court?

NAMI periodically raises the issue of advocating for mental health
courts, and once again requests the criminal justice system and the
mental health community take another look, a long, hard one, at joining
much of the nation in establishing a mental health court. NAMI family
members and consumers would be most appreciative.

Donald Turnbaugh, president, NAMI Pinellas County, Palm Harbor