Stigma Between Homelessness and Mental Health


Each year, between 2 to 3 million people in the United States experience some form of homelessness. Not everyone who is homeless is mentally ill, in fact, only 30-35% of individuals who are homeless have a mental illness. But those who are mentally ill and without a home seriously need help to get better.

Homelessness and mental health

homeless mental health stigmaUnfortunately, sometimes when people are not mentally stable enough to maintain a job or a home, they become homeless. These people also often lack access to proper health care treatment. Many people don’t understand the connection between homelessness and mental health. Below are some facts that clearly represent the connect between mental health and homelessness.

  • Distinguishing between those with and without severe mental illness may be particularly important. Assertive community treatment offered significant advantages over standard case management models in reducing homelessness and symptom severity in homeless people with severe mental illness
  • The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health made clear the need to address the public mental health system’s delivery of service to people without homes and with mental illness. This population is more likely to use hospitals than regular outpatient care, which is not only more expensive but results in fragmented service and less attention paid to ongoing mental health needs
  • Although substance abuse and mental illness contribute to homelessness, the primary cause is the lack of low-income housing
  • People with substance and other mental disorders experience even greater barriers to accessible housing than their counterparts: income deficits, stigma and need for community wraparound services
  • The remediation of homelessness involves focusing on the risk factors that contribute to homelessness as well as advocating for structural change

Photo by Maureen Barlin

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged , |

Reducing Violence In Police Situations Involving the Mentally Disabled


Our firm has been a proponent of Phoenix non-profit “David’s Hope” for years.   A recent article in the Arizona Republic gives a broad-reaching update, and spotlights founder Mary Brncik’s work on behalf of the mentally disabled in reducing violent interactions with law enforcement.

A recent white paper by the Ruderman Family Foundation claims that fully 1/3 of all people killed by police officers are mentally disabled.  Remember that even loved ones may call the police when they do not know how to handle a situation.

Police agencies say that the mentally disabled should be handled by mental health professionals, not the police.  Police reports are likely not to record whether or not a suspect has a mental disability.

The Phoenix Police Department have used a “Crisis Intervention Training” system to more efficiently connect people in crisis to the services they need, for over 14 years.  This training requires 40 hours, and it is estimated that 25% of officers receive it.

In addition, a designated mental health squad has been created in the Phoenix PD.  All of these initiatives are aimed at providing better outcomes, and eliminating violence.

See the original article, by Sara Weber of Cronkite News, here.

Posted in Arizona |

Can Amnesia be a Legal Defense


Amnesia is the loss of memory caused by psychological and physical trauma. While in order to be responsible for a crime the person must remember committing it, not remembering the crime is rarely the same as not committing the crime. So how can amnesia be used as a legal defense?

Legal defenses under amnesia

Amnesia is not considered the same as having a mental illness while committing a crime. The defendant’s mental state is what is important when trying to use amnesia as a defense. If the defendant lost their memory after they committed the crime, it has no effect on the defendant while they were committing the crime. Amnesia is not typically a sound defense, but it may be if the amnesia made the defendant experience conditions stated in the insanity defense.

Standing trial with amnesia as a legal defense

using amnesia as legal defenseAmnesia can be a factor when courts are deciding whether the defendant is competent enough to stand trial. Courts consider the following when determining whether the defendant is competent enough to stand trial:

  • whether the defendant is able to discuss the defense of the case
  • whether the amnesia is temporary or permanent
  • whether the crime can be reconstructed without the defendant’s testimony
  • whether the government’s files can help in preparing the case
  • the strength of government’s case.

The judge or jury can take these factors into consideration when deciding the penalty of the crime, but amnesia is typically not used to determine whether the defendant is innocent or guilty.

Using amnesia to plea insanity

Defendants must tell prosecutors before the trial if they plan to use insanity as a defense. Psychiatrists will examine the defendant prior to the trail and then will testify during the trial whether they believe the defendant was “insane” while committing the crime.

Photo by Nathan Laurell

Posted in Law Enforcement, Mental Health | Tagged , , |