The correlation of mental or behavioral health issues to violent crime has been a subject of debate for years, and the discussion is far from over.     

The spike in violent crime here and across the United States has led to more questions and debate about the link, which is not as clear as some assume.

A study by the Harvard Mental Health School found that 60 percent of Americans thought that people with schizophrenia were likely to act violent toward someone else, while 32 percent thought that people with major depression were likely to do so.

Studies, however, show that mere public perception is not the final answer.

Most people with mental health issues are nonviolent, according to the study, and many are victims rather than perpetrators of violent crimes, according to Richard Kramer, executive director of Florida Parishes Human Services Authority.

Research from the MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study found that 31 percent of people who had both substance abuse issues and a psychiatric disorder commit at least one act of violence per year, in comparison to 18 percent of those with a psychiatric disorder alone.

It’s a very complex and often misunderstood analysis. It also explains why we need the Behavioral Health Center of Denham Springs, a service that offers care regardless of income or insurance coverage.

The lack of affordable services has made treatment inaccessible for many who have suffered for years with issues related to substance abuse or psychiatric disorders.

The state and federal government lagged for years in the treatment of those with mental or behavioral health issues. Treatment of those issues should rank as high a priority as physical health care.

The costs of providing treatment and improving lives of those in need would outweigh the burden taxpayers face for the incarceration of violent criminals, some of whom could have led productive lives had a little more help been available.

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