Where mental illness and criminal justice meet

In its fourth year, the commission plans to implement a pilot restoration center in Middlesex County — a facility where law enforcement could send people with substance use or mental health disorders for appropriate treatment. “What happens when they’re in the facility, that’s what this pilot is for,” said Senator Cindy Friedman, who’s part of the commission. “It’s not just getting someone to a place. At the other end there has to be someone who knows what to do and can deal with this person who is ill and not criminal. Right there, it keeps them one step away from the criminal justice system,” she said. The restoration center would also take walk-ins.

As state budget negotiations are underway in conference committee, it is critical that the Legislature funds the center at a minimum of $1 million, which is what the commission expects to get in the budget. Also crucial is for lawmakers to keep a trust fund, included in the Senate budget proposal, that would allow for other sources of revenue to fund the restoration center pilot. “That would be money from foundation grants, federal earmarks, and/or the [American Rescue Plan] act,” said Friedman.

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