There is a mental health crisis in the United States. Nearly one in five adults in the U.S. live with a mental illness. Mental illness affects people of all ages and backgrounds—it does not discriminate.
*All other groups are non-Hispanic or Latino | **NH/OPI=Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander ***AI/AN=American Indian/Alaskan Native
Despite great advances in understanding and treating mental illness, too many people with mental health issues face stigma and a lack of access to appropriate care for their disease. These challenges have a disproportionate impact on people of color. Additionally, failures to achieve parity between mental and physical healthcare, to fund evidence-based prevention and intervention for people with mental illness, and to guarantee access to a full continuum of community-based mental health services has moved our justice system into the inappropriate role of mental health provider for far too many of us.
According to a 2017 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately two-thirds of women in prison and roughly a third of men in prison report having been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Of those who enter jail each year with a serious mental illness, an estimated three-quarters have a co-occurring substance use problem. The numbers are just as grave for young people. Sixty-five to seventy percent of children in the juvenile justice system have substantially higher rates of behavioral health conditions than children in the general population. (Mental Health America, Position Statement 51: Children with Emotional Disorders in The Juvenile Justice System.)
Sozosei believes we can do better, which is why we have chosen the decriminalization of mental illness as the first pillar of our overall grantmaking strategy and the focus of the annual Sozosei Summit.
Through our grantmaking and annual Sozosei Summit, we hope to:
The overarching goal of our mental health program area is to eliminate the inappropriate use of the justice system for mental health diagnosis and treatment. We support programs and efforts that employ one or more of the following strategies to reach that goal:
The tactics to achieve these strategies should be creative and data driven. We support advocacy efforts, system reform efforts, direct and legal services, and education. We are particularly interested in programs that are designed with a systems-thinking approach; programs advancing solutions using 21st-century tools, such as digital medicine and technology; and programs that elevate and incorporate the voices and expertise of those with lived experience, especially people of color.