WASHINGTON, D.C. - Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian today discussed the issue of mental health and incarceration at a White House Forum on Disability and Criminal Justice.
Sheriff Koutoujian joined officials from President Obama’s administration, the Center for American Progress and the American Civil Liberties Union for the first of two panel discussions.
“I was honored to participate in today’s important discussion focused on those in the criminal justice system with disabilities,” said Sheriff Koutoujian. “Today, at the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction, one-third of all those in our custody are being monitored by mental health staff. We have become a de facto mental health facility and any meaningful dialogue around criminal justice reform must include the voices of corrections professionals, as well as a focus on behavioral health.”
Sheriff Koutoujian discussed not only treatment behind the walls for individuals with mental illness, but the need for expanded pretrial diversion and continuity of care for those leaving custody, focusing specifically on the utilization of health insurance as a tool to reduce recidivism.
“Under President Obama’s leadership, the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has opened new doors to treatment for many of those in our custody,” said Sheriff Koutoujian.
The White House Forum on Disability and Criminal Justice White House Forum on Disability and Criminal Justice was opened by Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement. It also included remarks from representatives of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and the Department of Justice, among others.
Today’s forum at the White House was the second in just over a month at which Sheriff Koutoujian was invited to present, and the third White House event he has participated in since October. In June, the Sheriff discussed the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office Medication Assisted Treatment and Directed Opioid Recovery (MATADOR) Program at a meeting hosted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. 2 MATADOR is designed to assist those battling opioid addiction.
The Sheriff also visited the White House last October as part of the launch of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, of which he is a founding member.