New House leader looking to discuss the mentally ill in prisons

LANSING (AP) — The next leader of the Michigan House says he wants to bring experts together to discuss mental health treatment.

The number of mentally ill prisoners in the prison system has grown 14 percent since 2012 to roughly 9,400. Tom Leonard of DeWitt, who soon will become House speaker, says “early intervention” for people with mental illness saves money and can keep the public safe.

The Detroit News reports that many mentally ill inmates cost an average of $95,000 to house at a special prison in Whitmore Lake. Leonard, a Republican, says he doesn’t have a “silver bullet.” He wants to hear from experts.

Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz says there’s been a slow but steady increase in treating mentally ill prisoners.