Panels Consider Ways to Assist Ex-Inmates

The challenge of providing services to former prison inmates with mental illnesses was explored at a daylong conference Monday at Cal State Northridge.

Presented by the Northridge-based Human Interaction Research Institute, the conference featured panel discussions on model programs that coordinate mental health services through the probation and parole systems.

"When people with mental illnesses come out of jail or prison, they still need assistance to reduce the chances that they'll go back into jail or prison," said Thomas E. Backer, president of the institute.

Because of a lack of funding, Backer said, few programs in the nation use the probation and parole systems to assist former inmates with severe mental illnesses, such as manic depression and schizophrenia.

"These are underfunded and overburdened systems that have many other demands put on them, but it is their purpose to help make a connection between a person that's been incarcerated and the community," Backer said.

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