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Data-Driven Justice: Lafayette Parish Partners with White House to Improve

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Data-Driven Justice: Lafayette Parish Partners with White House to Improve Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems


Lafayette is one of sixty-seven communities partnering with The White House Administration on its Data-Driven Justice Initiative. This initiative focuses on using data-driven strategies to divert low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal-justice system and to changing approaches to pre-trial incarceration so that low-risk offenders no longer stay in jail simply because they cannot afford a bond. 


Lafayette Parish has about 7,500 adults (4.2% of adult residents) with a Serious Mental Illness (SMI). These 7,500 community members may receive treatment through private providers, public mental health system or no treatment at all. A SAMHSA study indicated that in Louisiana over 60% of individuals with a mental illness received no treatment within the past year. When treatment is non-existent or insufficient, individuals with mental illness wind up in our local jails and emergency rooms. “This costs taxpayers more money than if these individuals were receiving appropriate care in the community,” said Rob Reardon, former Director of Corrections for the Sheriff’s Office.


The average annual cost per Tyler Mental Health Clinic client is $2,750. Compare the costs of providing community, outpatient services to incarceration. It costs an average of $54/day to incarcerate an individual, and many defendants are incarcerated the entire time it takes for the cases to be resolved; usually over 60 days. If an individual is incarcerated for 60 days, it costs taxpayers $3,240. Likewise, a single emergency room visit has a minimum cost of $580.00, not including transportation costs and any inpatient care.  Using taxpayer money wisely and improving the vibrancy of our community by helping those in need is the vision of Lafayette’s leaders on DDJ Initiative.


“Our work with the mental health and criminal justice began before our involvement with the White House initiative,” said Holly Howat, executive director for Lafayette Parish Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee. “In April, the Sheriff’s Office convened a community forum on mental illness that had tremendous attendance. We looked at data related to the incarceration of the mentally ill and the CJCC decided to make it a priority issue.” Beginning last June, CJCC created the Mental Health-Criminal Justice collaborative and began researching and formulating an action plan.


Julio Naudin
Communication Coordinator