CEI Blog: An Alternative to Jail for Arkansans with Mental Health Illnesses

Dear Friends,

Far too many in our society, about 1 in 5, suffer from mental illness. Tragically, only about 50% of those suffering from mental illness receive the treatment they need in a given year. Further, 37% of incarcerated adults and 70% of incarcerated youth suffer from mental illness. These numbers are staggering.

In Congress we have taken steps to address this with the passage of 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law in December 2016. We've already seen the nationwide benefits of this new law which focused on:

1.) Modernizing our seriously outdated mental health care system by retooling mental health programs
2.) Clarifying privacy laws to ensure health care professionals can communicate with caregivers
3.) Addressing the shortages in our mental health workforce and treatment facilities to ensure patients have access to the services they need

Today, I want to highlight an effort occurring right here in central Arkansas. This past month, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Lisa Evans and her team at the Pulaski County Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU). These facilities were developed to divert individuals in crisis who have not committed a felony but need immediate treatment for mental health.

Previously, such individuals might have been taken to jail or an emergency department. While in the CSU, patients receive treatment and observation for up to seven days to deescalate their acute crises before being release and referred for further help.

One year after it's grand opening, the Pulaski County Crisis Stabilization Unit has treated more than 500 Arkansans who might otherwise have gone to jail. The center is a partnership between the State of Arkansas, Pulaski County, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). 

 Below: Congressman Hill (pictured left) met with Dr. Lisa Evans (pictured center) and her team at the Pulaski County Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) this past August. 

The opening of CSUs across the state is the result of legislation passed by the Arkansas State Legislature in 2017 that allowed for the creation of theses units. The facilities themselves are a collaboration between the state, county sheriff’s offices, and local mental health providers.

This past August, the Pulaski County Regional Crisis Stabilization Unit received national accreditation by CARF International. CARF International, formerly the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, is an international organization that provides accreditation worldwide for behavioral health programs.

“Obtaining a national accreditation is not only required to maintain our status as an Acute Crisis Unit in the state of Arkansas, it signifies the program is providing a very high standard of care for our patients,”
 said Dr. Lisa Evans. “A full three-year accreditation indicates the program is compliant with over 1,500 standards related to health and safety, leadership, effectiveness, quality of care and excellent patient advocacy.”

Like the collaboration that has led to the opening of CSUs, we must work together to make sure that individuals in our community are receiving the care they need. If you, or someone you know is in need of mental health services, I would encourage you to use the following resources:

Arkansas Mental Health and Addiction Services Support Line:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Help Line:
1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Crisis Text Line:
Text SIGNS to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free crisis counseling.


Representative French Hill

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