"The Cycle for Mentally Ill Homeless Must End" (May 30)


I agree with Elmer Smith that jail is not the answer for homeless people with mental illness.

But jails can be part of the solution if they work with health-care providers in their community. Many homeless people pass through the jail each year. By linking these inmates with community health centers, which can provide ongoing care, jails can stabilize inmates' health and help ensure that they take their mental health medications.

Some evidence suggests that this can reduce recidivism and jail costs.

This community-based approach to inmate care may improve both public health and safety, and some municipalities, including Washington, D.C., have started using this approach.

Philadelphia's leaders have an opportunity to forge connections between the jail and community health centers that will benefit inmates

and taxpayers alike, and help reduce the number of mentally ill who are homeless.

Keith Barton, Medical Director

Community Oriented

Correctional Health Services

Oakland, Calif.