SPRINGFIELD — Illinois earned an average grade for its efforts to care for mentally ill inmates in state jails and prison, according to a recent study by the Treatment Advocacy Center.

The nonprofit organization ranked states according to their treatment of seriously mentally inmates who had committed major crimes. Illinois was among several states earning a "C" based on an opinion that the state "is making a modest effort and has some components of a model program."

Illinois, like most other states, faces a critical shortage of beds for defendants deemed by a judge to be mentally unfit to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity.  

As of April 2017, Illinois had 802 forensic beds in five facilities for people in those two mental health categories, according to the study.

The 95 percent nationwide decrease in public psychiatric beds from 1955, when 558,239 such beds were available across the country, has left counties and states scrambling for treatment facilities.

About 60,000 mental health evaluations are conducted annually in the U.S.; last year, 383,000 people were held in a treatment facility because of mental fitness or an insanity finding.

"The quality of life for individuals undergoing repeated psychiatric hospitalizations and incarcerations is dismal," the report concluded.

Improvements to community mental health care are needed, said the report, to close the revolving door that brings seriously mentally ill offenders back to jail at twice the rate as their counterparts without behavioral health issues.

The 200,000 seriously mentally ill people who have committed a serious crime in the U.S. represent about two percent of the population with a severe psychiatric disorder.

The Treatment Advocacy Center estimated that about 20,000 offenders with a serious mental disorder are released from local and state custody each year after spending time in a state treatment facility related to a major crime. 

Follow Edith Brady-Lunny on Twitter: @pg_blunny

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