Jail, mental illness and homeless

The interrelated problems of homelessness, jail overcrowding and lack of effective treatment for people with mental illness must be addressed. Every year these problems get bigger. Criminalizing vagrancy and mental illness has not been effective in solving the problem. In 2014, according to an article in the Daily Camera, 40 percent of the prison population had a diagnosed mental illness. Many of these people are homeless. We have merely kicked the problem down the road to the Boulder County Jail.

The city, the county and Mental Health Partners should work together to design and build a new facility to house mentally ill inmates as an alternative to jail. This facility could offer diagnosis and treatment and connect inmates with services when they are released. Depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are treatable illnesses. Many patients become productive members of society. That's better for all of us than incarceration.

The Attention Homes project proposed for 14th and Pine should be supported by the City Council. This facility will keep young people off the street and set them up for independence and success. Providing housing and care for young members of our society is both compassionate and economically sound.

Our society is mean to the most vulnerable. Things could get even worse in the next few years. In Boulder we have the resources and creativity to offer more humane and cost effective solutions.