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Misconception Monday - Mental Health Services in the Jail

Recently one of my opponents posted to his campaign Facebook page that the jail administration does little to assist those with mental health issues while they are incarcerated. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Laramie County Detention Center (Jail) employs a full time staff of three licensed mental professionals who meet with the inmates to address their needs and help them with coping skills. While in jail, these staff members also assist the medical provider in determining what medications are needed to help these inmates with their condition. This allows them to better deal with their situation while they are in jail and working their way through the judicial process. We also work with the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program to divert eligible nonviolent offenders into treatment programs in lieu of incarceration and for those who do end up in jail, the LEAD program works with them to find continued treatment and possible housing and employment opportunities once released. This is done through a “warm hand off" to the counseling services so the person has a greater opportunity for success once released.

I have been working on a mental health advisory board made up of community, judicial and law enforcement partners to identify those with serious mental health issues when they come into jail. This is done to more efficiently and quickly work these offenders through the judicial process as jail is not the place for the mentally ill. They account for their crimes but we ensure through the LEAD Program they have the services they will need to succeed when they leave. This greatly lowers their recidivism rate so hopefully they will be able to stay out of trouble and give back to the community. The LEAD program has already proven to be a great resource in lowering the number of contacts those with addiction and mental health issues have with law enforcement which in turn reduces the rate at which they return to jail. The LEAD Program is just finishing up its final year of grant funding and the Sheriff’s Office has secured a new grant for another 3 years and will be housing the LEAD program and coordinator in our facility. In the future, we will be adding a permanent position for the LEAD Coordinator to ensure the program continues when grant funding runs out permanently.

To more safely house inmates who are seriously mentally ill I created the first of its kind I the state mental health unit in the Laramie County Jail. This unit will house all of the inmates with serious and life threatening mental health issues to insure their safety while in jail.

On the patrol side we are partnering with CRMC to provide mental health staff to ride along with patrol deputies to respond to calls involving the mentally ill. This partnership will more effectively and safely allow law enforcement to handle these uncertain and challenging calls for service. We are also providing Critical Incident Training, CIT, to both the patrol and jail staff. This training instructs deputies how to better handle situations involving people with mental health issues both on the streets and in the jail. Not only do we help those with mental illness, we also assist the homeless with clothing, food and information on area resources when they leave the jail at no cost to the taxpayers. Inmates who are dealing with drug or alcohol issues have the opportunity while in jail to attend AA and NA classes hosted by one of our jail volunteers. Inmates who do not qualify to participate in the LEAD program are given resource material when they are released for addiction services and information on the risks of an overdose after spending time in jail. Laramie County has seen a rise in overdoses recently and we are assisting in efforts to insure inmates with a history of substance abuse have the information they need to keep as safe as possible once they walk out our doors.

These are just some of the services we provide in the jail, the majority of these have been implemented while I have been in charge of the jail as Captain. So the information that one of my opponents posted on his campaign page relating to the lack of services in the jail is false.

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