A state advisory group to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is holding a public briefing in Lewiston today about the criminalization of people with mental illnesses.
Chair of the U.S. Commission, Catherine Lhamon, says people with mental health issues are being increasingly incarcerated because there are few community resources that can serve them.
"We want to make sure that persons who live with mental illness have a place to go to be treated, rather than treated as criminals," Lhamon says.
Portland Police Chief Mike Sauschuck says there's a strong desire to divert people who need mental health treatment out of jails and prisons.
"But where do you divert them to, is the question," he says. "So we should talk a fair amount today about a lack of treatment options, a lack of bed space, and a lack of Medicaid expansion in the state of Maine, and how that can curtail people's attempts to get treatment."
Advocates, law enforcement, lawmakers, and those affected by mental illness will brief the Maine advisory group, who will then develop a set of recommendations.