Jail Mental health Crisis

Najahe Sherman reports on barriers of mental health in the prison system and how the Morgan County Sheriff just implemented a new program that aims to break those barriers.

Posted: Jun 10, 2019 7:15 PM
Updated: Jun 10, 2019 7:15 PM

Speech to Text for Jail Mental health Crisis

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it's a major hole in the system... nearly half of one jail's inmate population is incarcerated... when they should be contributing members of our community. as i found out, there is a big barrier stopping that from happening. the morgan county sheriff just implemented a new program that aims to break those barriers. morgan county sheriff ron puckett told me this jail was built to house criminals... but it has become a catch-all facility. he says too many of his inmates are dealing with a mental health crisis and get caught up in the system. sheriff ron puckett/ morgan county jail -00:34:54:02 we run into that often and then they come to the county jail for help. but you can't get individual help if you're incarcerated. right now there are about 600 inmates in the morgan county jail. detention workers tell me about 40-percent of the inmate population suffer from some kind of mental health or substance abuse issue. but they believe the numbers could be much higher. sheriff ron puckett 00:3:39:12 get them out and get them help. you don't come to jail for help, you come to jail for incarceration. we need to get them out of jail to get them help. and hopefully get them back on their medications. normal working, law abiding citizens that can produce like anyone else in the county. puckett recently implemented a program that aims to change that cycle. it's called the stepping up program. morgan county along with a few other counties qualified for a grant to fund the program. it launched in january and is spearheaded by counselor kathy goodwin. so far goodwin identified 60 inmates who would benefit from the services. kathy goodwin: 00:02:34:08 i consider myself a connector. i meet with the inmates before they get released and offer them stepping up case management services and connect them with the services that they need. we're trying to connect the barriers that might have kept them from receiving the right kind of treatment. hopefully this keeps them from coming back to the jail because of mental health issues. goodwin told me the program has a track record of success. montgomery county alabama had a similar community partnership. before the jail had a designated case manager, inmates who had a mental health issue had a 50 percent rate of reoffending and ending up back in jail. goodwin 00:05:41:20 - when we dedicated case managers to help them with these barriers. it went below 5 percent, so we know that it can be effective if they take advantage of these services. sheriff puckett told me he's optimistic the program will help people get their lives on track.. and he says it will also save taxpayers a lot of money. puckett 00:38:04:00 we spend over a million dollars a year for health care in the morgan county jail and that includes mental health care. that's a lot of money tax payers are paying for healthcare, for inmates in jail. 00:38:27:21 hopefully the savings would be...if that person doesn't come in jail, they're not having to house, feed and provide healthcare and mental health for that individual for the second time. the savings is, they're not coming back. it cost more to put it in the jail and to have them here than to have them at the mental health services. goodwin told me she has seen how impactful this program is... and she looks forward to helping this group reach their full potential and become contributing members of the community. the sheriff told me eventually he would like to create a mental health court in morgan county. it would be a court system dedicated to inmates who have mental health issues and making
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