Sunday, February 06, 2005


From the Indianapolis Star, Aug. 2003

BC Comments in italics:

In addition, Marion County has the Pair Mental Health Diversion Program. [It is actually named the PAIR--Psychiatric Assertive Identification and Referral]It allows mentally ill people facing misdemeanor and some nonviolent felony charges to receive treatment as an alternative to incarceration.

The program was created after the Marion County Mental Health Association brought together a number of groups to share concerns about the number of mentally ill people in jail in 1995. [In fact, the Marion County Mental Health Association did little more than to give us space to meet. Lynn Carson, of the Mental Health Association, helped in bringing representatives of law enforcement to the table as she was also a Lt. in the Reserve County Sheriff's Department.]

"These people didn't really need to be in jail," said Marjorie Towell, executive director of the association. "What they needed was to be in treatment."

Under the Pair program, those who are mentally ill and convicted [a person does not have to be convicted, only to face a charge] of a qualifying crime receive treatment and counseling for a year. Staff members [one staff member] from the mental health association monitor the person's progress and submit reports to the court.

If the person fulfills the requirements, the criminal case is dismissed.

Since 1996, 497 people have gone through the program and 73 percent have successfully completed it, officials said.

But there are more people eligible than the program can accommodate, Towell noted. The program does not receive public funding and relies on volunteers. [But the PAIR Program has been advantageous in public relations and tapping other revenue streams. All of the "volunteers" are employed in one of the social agencies which work with the mentally ill in some capacity.]


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