It's no secret that the majority of treatment beds nationwide for the mentally ill are in our prisons and jails, not in the shrinking number of mental hospitals. It should be medical professionals, not the county sheriff who treats the mentally ill.

Too many violators of minor crimes end up in jails after being left on the streets and not in facilities that treat the mentally ill

The bottom line is that in Indiana there aren't enough clinical facilities available to offer mental health intervention.

In Madison we've heard from those who treat the mentally ill that patients can get less expensive care in outpatient programs. Unfortunately, many of them end up in jail, or worse, homeless.

That is very much the local dilemma facing the mentally ill, and now it may erupt as a statewide issue, as it should.

According to an Associated Press report, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt has ordered the Indiana Department of Correction to explain to her its plans for improving the treatment of mentally ill prisoners. This comes after the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana argued that the state does not seem to be taking the situation seriously.

It's about time, although it is not entirely a corrections issue. Perhaps those who draft and approve state budgets should have a seat at the table.

Responsibility rests not so much with those who treat the mentally ill as with those who do the budgeting. Those who treat the mentally could provide more beds and treatment personnel if they would only receive the funding necessary to care for those who are truly sick.

Pratt issued an order on Dec. 31 that the Department of Correction should be doing more. That was when she found the department's treatment of nearly 6,000 mentally ill inmates to be inadequate.

Previously, DOC said it was looking at options including increased staff and space for care, perhaps at the Pendleton Correctional Facility.

This is an issue that is growing nationwide. Indiana needs to get serious about finding a solution.

The Evansville Courier & Press contributed information for this editorial