About half of all Americans in prison have a severe mental illness, according to the American Psychiatric Association. The numbers are even higher for those in local jails. On the front lines, New Hampshire police say they've tried to become more knowledgeable about mental health.
More training has helped, along with public awareness and the state's mental health court system. Still, it's a complex interaction. Too often, says Strafford County Attorney Tom Velardi, people with mental illness and substance abuse end up incarcerated.
"In our local jail, we estimate about 70 percent of the people have a co-occurring disorder. How do you deal with folks that have these diagnoses? First, it's to not force them into a criminal justice system that's not designed to deal with their issues, " he said on The Exchange.
"What we've designed in Strafford County are some systems to try to help identify mental health issues, to not criminalize or escalate mental health issues, and to get people diverted out of the system."
See highlights from the conversation below (edited slightly for length and clarity). For audio of the full Exchange conversation, as well as additional reading and resource materials, visit here.