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The Pennsylvania State House of Representatives has passed a bill that would require mental health training for police officers and criminal court judges.
The bill's sponsor hopes it will send more mentally ill criminal offenders to treatment instead of jail or prison.
The legislation passed in the House unanimously and is now in the Senate.
Rep. Thomas Caltagirone introduced the bill to the House Judiciary Committee, of which he is minority chair, earlier this year.
The bill requires annual mental health training for municipal and state police, including an overview of various psychiatric disorders and treatment program availability for alternatives to incarceration. Similar topics would be required for the state-run district judge training program.
At Caltagirone's urging, the House directed the Joint State Government Commission to review mental health treatment practices. If the panel's findings are what he expects, the representative says he may try to take money that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is saving on two closed prisons and use it to beef up inpatient and outpatient mental health services.
"[The] mental health system in this state has just fallen apart," Caltagirone said.
This first step is to help those who are often the ones on the front lines with the mentally ill in criminal investigations learn more about what they're dealing with and how it can be helped without just booking and jailing them.
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