Hennepin County grants funding to program to help mentally ill offenders

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The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners recently voted to spend more than $250,000 to fully implement a program that supervises chronically mentally ill offenders.

“You want to have a place where people can go to have their medications monitored and modified if need be,” Hennepin County commissioner Peter McLaughlin said.

The county’s $269,496 allocation to PRISM, which stands for Providing Resources and Integrating Services to the Mentally Ill, will go toward the program’s facility and medical staffing.

Human Services and Public Health will house the program from a county- owned space at 1800 Chicago Ave.

Community Corrections will get some of the allocation for medical staffing, which will include personnel from Hennepin Faculty Associates, a group affiliated with the Hennepin County Medical Center.

The county formed the Downtown Mental Health and Criminal Justice Task Force three years ago, at the same time the city first asked the county for emergency sheriffs deputies to help patrol Downtown.

McLaughlin said he pushed for the task force because he wanted the city to have two different but parallel approaches to fighting crime in Minneapolis.

“The criminal justice response was not the best thing that could happen,” McLaughlin said of how to handle mentally ill offenders. “If you arrest them, they serve some time, then go out and do it again. The idea was to break that cycle.”

The task force proposed PRISM in 2006 as a one-stop facility for offenders under the jurisdiction of Mental Health Court.