KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Mentally Ill Immigrants Have Slim Chance At Getting Care When Arrested

Many mentally-ill illegal immigrants get only limited mental health care, if any, while they are in jail or prison, advocates for them say, according to The Dallas Morning News.

"They aren't entitled to competency hearings before standing trial. And the majority of them face judges without legal counsel, and with little recourse to defend themselves from deportation."

"Immigration detention officials say they have strict guidelines for mental-health care in detention centers. All inmates receive a mental-health screening as part of their intake exam, they say. Those with suspected mental illness are referred for more tests and treatment. In fiscal 2008, detention-center personnel performed nearly 30,000 mental-health interventions – including providing emergency care to detainees seen as suicide risks." Others say, however, that there's little guidance on how to handle mental health issues once detainees come before a judge.

"(A)dvocates say detention facilities don't consistently follow mental-health standards, and often don't have enough mental-health workers to handle the estimated 15 percent of detainees suffering from mental illness" (Ramshaw, 7/12).

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