Researchers at NC State say it's safer and more cost effective for the government to treat people with mental illnesses.
A study released this week says those who received Medicaid treatment for health problems like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were less likely to end up in jail. NC State professor Sarah Desmarais is co-author of the study. She points to previous reports that show mental health patients make up a disproportionate number of those who are charged or convicted of crimes.
"What treatment they might be getting is happening in justice settings and there's always the argument as to whether or not we position their treatment or public safety first," Desmarais says.
"Our position on this is that you treat mental illness and it actually benefits both of those things."
The study says those who received treatment got medication or therapy in an outpatient setting. Desmarais says the next step is pinpointing exactly how doctors should approach treating those people.
"We had found in some prior work trends in this direction, but this is the first time that we had this sample size to look at it on this scale. I think our group, moving forward, wants to drill down a little bit more in terms of what treatment itself seems to be the most effective."
Desmarais says it was cheaper for governments to pay for those services rather than police, court and prison costs by about $10 per patient every day.