President Barack Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act today after it passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support, signaling an effort to address the nation’s challenges with mental health in the criminal justice system, among other medical priorities.

The $6 billion public health and medical research bill is an umbrella for a variety of health initiatives-from authorizing money to combat the nation’s opioid crisis to funding the “moonshot” project to cure cancer.

Included in the omnibus bill’s range of initiatives are several criminal justice reform measures related to mental health, including the enactment of the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act (CJMHA) and the reauthorization of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA).

“The Cures Act improves mental health care,” President Obama said at the signing ceremony. “Many of these reform align with my administration’s work to improve our criminal justice system, helping us enhance data collection and taking steps so that we’re not unnecessarily incarcerating people who actually need mental health assistance.”

The bill increases funds for specialized police response training and expands the reach of federally funded programs to serve people in the justice system who have mental health and substance use needs. Many local governments are already making progress in this area, with hundreds of counties across the nation joining the Stepping Up initiative and committing to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.

Click here to learn more about five key impacts of the bill.

Contributed by: Patrick Sieng | AOC Public Safety Policy Manager

December 15, 2016