(2-10-16) I was honored to testify today at a hearing before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee entitled Breaking the Cycle: Mental Health and The Justice System. I was invited at the request of Sen. John Cornyn (R. Texas), who has introduced the Mental Health and Safe Community Act of 2015, which calls for continued funding for Crisis Intervention Team Training, Mental Health Courts, Assisted Outpatient Treatment, jail diversion and other programs related to our criminal justice system.
The other four witnesses were:
Dr. Fred Osher, Director Of Health Systems And Services Policy Council of State Governments Justice Center
Sheriff Susan L. Pamerleau, Sheriff Bexar County, San Antonio , TX
Mr. William Ward, State Public Defender, State of Minnesota Board of Public Defense, Minneapolis , MN
Mr. W. David Guice, Commissioner, Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice | North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Raleigh , NC
I was asked by Sen. Cornyn to put a human face on criminal justice programs by telling my family’s story, which I was happy to do. Sitting behind me during my testimony was my son, Kevin, and Cynthia Anderson, who runs the jail diversion program in Fairfax.
Although I have told our story many, many times, I always become emotional because of the flood of memories that rush up inside me when I speak. I also become emotional because I know, that while Kevin is doing great, there are hundreds of families who are in the midst of a mental health crisis right now in our nation. They need help. This hearing was no different.
I will be writing a blog soon about all of the legislation that is being offered this congressional session about mental health. I am hopeful that the Senate and House will take steps to enact real reforms. Meanwhile, I want to thank Kevin for allowing me to continue tell his story and for his willingness to appear by my side.
(My testimony begins at 36:23 if you don’t have time to watch the entire hearing. I spoke for 5 minutes and later answered questions. You can also read all of the witnesses’ written statements on the committee website.)