New program seeks to help mentally ill stay out of jail - WDRB 41 Louisville News

New program seeks to help mentally ill stay out of jail

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --- Keeping people with mental illness out of jail, in treatment and living independently: that's the goal of a new program unveiled in Louisville on Tuesday.

It's called the Assertive Community Treatment program, or ACT. It's designed to keep people suffering from severe mental illness out of Metro Corrections.

WDRB first exposed the problem a year ago. They are called 'frequent fliers' - people with mental illnesses who are trapped in a vicious cycle, going from the streets to hospitals, to the jail and back.

Of the 2,000 inmates housed at Metro Corrections, about about one-quarter are on some kind of psychotropic medication.

"These are generally people who have very serious mental illnesses, who have histories of homelessness," said Dr. Tony Zippel, president and CEO of Seven Counties Services.

Now Seven Counties Services has unveiled a new program program to designed to help. Assertive Community Treatment, or ACT, engages people with severe mental illness, who are falling through the cracks. It provides 24/7 treatment, housing and support.

"We can improve public safety because people are stable and they are out of trouble and out of crisis. And we can give people their lives back," said Zippel.

The program is being launched in Louisville with $1 million in state funds derived from the settlement of a class action lawsuit that was to be filed on behalf of patients being improperly housed in institutional group homes.

"Beyond that, Metro government is providing support for housing and other kinds of supports, and we'll be billing some things through Medicaid," said Zippel.

ACT costs about $21,000 per person, but officials say that's cheap compared to the cost of jail cells and emergency rooms.

"We have spent hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, on a very select few ... individuals," said Metro Corrections Chief Mark Bolton.

"As I've said before, it's much less expensive to treat people on the front end than it is to incarcerate people on the back end," said Jefferson District Judge David Holton, who also serves as Seven Counties board chairman.

Metro Corrections Chief Mark Bolton says the program is already having an impact.

Of the 29 people now in the ACT program, 11 are the so-called frequent-flyers.

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