Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Father Fights for More Treatment, Less Jail for Mentally Ill People

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Father Fights for More Treatment, Less Jail for Mentally Ill People

Article excerpt

Jim Brann's son, Billy, has been in and out of jails in southern Kansas since he returned from his second tour of Iraq in 2008.

Brann, an Overland Park retiree and military veteran himself, says his son would benefit from treatment for his bipolar condition and the post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered after seeing heavy combat.

The state would benefit too, Brann says, and that is why he has been speaking to legislators for months about developing sentencing options that would allow judges to mandate treatment rather than prison time for Kansans with mental illness who commit minor crimes.

"The last place in the world those people need to be is incarcerated," Brann said. "And the last people who want to take care of mentally ill people is the corrections system."

In Kansas, 38 percent of those incarcerated have a diagnosed mental illness, and the expense of treatment in that setting is one that Kansas Department of Corrections secretary Ray Roberts has repeatedly asked legislators to consider when forming the agency's budget.

"As Sec. Ray Roberts often says, we are the largest mental health care provider in the state of Kansas, meaning the Department of Corrections," said Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee.

Rubin, the chairman of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, is one of the legislators with whom Brann has spoken.

Rubin said he would have to see what form potential legislation would take, but the principle of finding alternatives to incarceration for Kansans with mental illness who don't pose a threat to the community is one he supports.

"It is an issue that we will look at, if I'm fortunate to be re- elected and come back and be chosen chairman of corrections again," Rubin said.

Rubin said it is also an issue that may be looked at by a joint House and Senate corrections committee that meets before the next legislative session in January. …

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