CRIME
05/01/2013 09:45 am ET Updated May 01, 2013

Mental Illness, Violence And Crime: One Reporter's Family Story

Courtesy Of The Family

A relatively small amount of funding for mental health care could ultimately save money and lives, according to a new cover story in Mother Jones.

"Two to three thousand dollars in treatment saves $50,000 in jail," Randall Hagar, director of government relations for the California Psychiatric Association, told Mother Jones' Mac McClelland.

Since the 1980s, federal funding for mental health care has declined precipitously, while incarceration rates have soared over the same time period.

State and local funding for mental health care follows a similar pattern.

McClelland's article tells the story of her third-cousin, Houston Herczog, and Houston's father, Mark.

Houston, who has been diagnosed by several psychologists as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, killed his father by stabbing him 60 times in November, 2011. Houston's trial started this week. Before the killing, Houston's family struggled in vain to get him help but, short of calling the police, the family had no other option, McClelland writes.

"I would love to see treatment available for people who need it," McClelland told The Huffington Post. "If you can't get treatment, you can't get better and if you can't get better, sometimes these things happen."

Some research has cast doubt on the links between mental illness and violent crime, but the connection between mental illness and those who find themselves behind bars is striking.

Research cited by Mother Jones indicates that 45 percent of federal prisoners, 56 percent of inmates in state prisons, and 64 percent of those incarcerated in local jails have mental health problems.

Mother Jones also cites several studies that show a strong relationship between violence and mental illness. One suggested that "approximately 10 percent of US homicides are committed by untreated severely mentally ill people" and another found the "chances that a perpetrator of a mass shooting displayed signs of mental illness prior to the crime" were one in two.

McClelland told HuffPost, recent budget cuts nationwide have only exacerbated the trend toward gutting mental health care programs that could ultimately save taxpayer dollars and prevent tragedies like the one her family suffered.

"In the budget crunches, mental health is always one of the first things on the chopping black," McClelland said. "There's no sign of that abating."

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