Legislation to Boost Mental Health Help in County Jails Advances in Augusta

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Legislation to get county jails more help addressing mental health and substance abuse advanced in Augusta on Monday.

Representative Richard Malaby, of Hancock, has submitted two bills- both of which will now go to the House for votes.

One calls for mental health and substance abuse screenings of defendants to ensure those who need treatment get it.

This assessment would divert people with mental health issues out of jail and into treatment.

His other bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services to staff each of Maine's county jails with a mental health liaison to oversee inmates with serious mental illnesses.

"Now don't get me wrong, if they're there for a felony, if they're there for a major crime- they need to be there. But if we're talking about someone who's been convicted of public indecency five, seven, eight times, if we're talking about homeless people who are looking for- for lack of a better word three hots and a cot- we've got to find a better way to treat them, to get them out of jail, to reduce our correctional cost and get them into treatment," said Malaby, (R).

If approved, the mental health liaisons would work with qualified inmates and the court system to ensure they receive due process and a speedy trial.