ADA Requirements Affect Your City. This Webinar Will Show How Seattle and San Antonio are Rising to the Challenge.

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On Thursday, Jan. 12, the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education, and Families will host a webinar on how cities can comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and improve outcomes for young adults with mental illness.

The ADA places an obligation on government entities to provide mental health services in the most integrated setting appropriate for the individual. Jails rarely constitute “the most integrated setting,” yet have become the default location where many Americans receive mental health services. (Getty Images)

Nationwide, cities and their partners continue to experiment with ways to avoid taking young adults to jail, especially in cases where mental health or substance disorders lead to behavior that draws the attention of police officers and community members concerned about public safety. Absent these experiments, some people with serious mental illness frequently get arrested and go to jail, often repeatedly. Once in jail, individuals whose offenses stem from mental illness stay in jail longer, and during those jail stays, their condition may worsen. Meanwhile, most jurisdictions typically cannot receive Medicaid reimbursement for expensive and limited mental health services received in jail.

In addition to the evidence of harm to the individual, less than efficient application of police effort and questionable results for public safety, cities have yet another reason to keep people with behavioral health needs out of jail: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA places an obligation on government entities to provide mental health services in the most integrated setting appropriate for the individual. Jails rarely constitute “the most integrated setting,” yet have too often become the default location where many Americans receive mental health services. A community’s lack of appropriate services does not remove this responsibility.

To learn more about how cities such as San Antonio, Texas and Seattle seek to meet the ADA obligation by collaborating with mental health departments and providers to divert people with mental illness away from jail and into community-based services, register here for an informative and frank discussion at 1:00 p.m. EST on Jan. 12. Speakers include:

  • Eve Hill from the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice
  • Officer Joseph Smarro of the San Antonio, Texas Police Department
  • Gilbert Gonzales, Director, Department of Behavioral and Mental Health, Bexar County,Texas
  • Daniel Nelson, Seattle Police Department

Heidi CooperAbout the author: Heidi Cooper is the Associate of Justice Reform within NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.