New Minnesota law moves jailed people to treatment sooner

by Allison Kronberg

A new law passed in Minnesota will reduce the amount of time those suffering from mental illness spend in local jails.

The law, Senate File 685, will go into effect on Aug. 1, according to a press release.

“Time is the enemy of people in mental health crisis,” Hennepin County District Judge Jay Quam told the Star Tribune. “Anything we can do to speed up that process is a good thing, and this bill helps make that possible.”

Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, and Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center co-authored the bill, which would combine two separate screening processes used to determine whether an inmate can stand trial and whether they should be committed to a mental health facility, the Star Tribune reported.

Under the previous system, inmates were required to participate in a commitment hearing, two separate evaluations, and an intervening period, which could take months, according to the press release.

It is estimated that 30 percent of the about 40,000 inmates admitted to Hennepin County annually have a mental illness, according to the Star Tribune.

Another bill was passed during the 2013 legislative session, which required inmates who had been court-ordered to receive mental health treatment to be transferred from jail to a state mental health facility in 48 hours or less, the press release said.