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mental health

There are currently millions of Americans serving time in one penal institution or another, more than half of which are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses. Decades of draconian drug laws, such as mandatory minimum sentencing rules, has resulted in inflated prison populations and have disproportionately affected minorities. While drug sentencing laws are being amended in many states, slowly but surely, there is still much work to be done with regard to how this country treats those living with the disease of addiction or other forms of debilitating mental illness.

Certainly, experts can point to a number of reasons why black and Latino Americans have been disproportionately touched by drug sentencing laws (i.e. stereotyping, poverty and racism); it may be the result of a systemic problem that begins with how people are treated in their adolescent years. The treatment of minority of children in this country may actually put them on path that, more times than not, results in imprisonment during one’s adult years.

New research indicates that minority adolescents and young adults in this country are about half as likely as their white peers to get mental health care, ScienceDaily reports. The findings come from analyzing data on children under 18 and young adults 18-34 from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey between the years 2006-2012. The research was published in the International Journal of Health Services.

Verily, failing to provide adequate treatment services to those who are living with a mental health disorder is a recipe for disaster. It is well known that jails and prisons are not treatment centers, we cannot arrest away mental health. And as you might imagine, black youths have similar rates of mental health issues as their white counterparts, according to the article. Without receiving proper care, our disenfranchised youth will turn to self-medication with drugs and alcohol. The authors point out:

“The under-provision of mental health care for minority children contrasts starkly with the high frequency of punitive sanctions that their behaviors elicit. Black children suffer excessive rates of school discipline such as suspensions and expulsions starting at preschool ages. Minority teens also have disproportionate contact with the juvenile justice system, with higher arrest rates for nonviolent, low-level offenses such as drug possession, as well as for non-criminal misbehaviors such as truancy and curfew violations. Youthful transgressions that might result in referral for treatment among non-minority children more often incur criminal sanctions for minorities.”