- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 4, 2014

COLUMBUS, Neb. (AP) - The sheriff’s department in Platte County is seeking $10,000 in the 2014-15 budget to add a part-time counseling position at the jail to help some inmates with their mental health issues.

Former Sheriff Jon Zavadil, who retired last month, said “county jails have become dumping grounds” for people who need mental health care, something for which the jail isn’t equipped or staffed.

The money would pay for a mental health counselor to visit the jail four hours a week, providing inmates with individual or group counseling.

Zavadil told the Columbus Telegram (https://bit.ly/1kqM66h ) the issue arose over about the past decade, since the state shifted responsibility for some mental health treatment from regional facilities to community-based services.

Treatment gaps have opened between services that once were available at regional facilities and what’s locally accessible to people sitting in jail, accused of crimes.

“Basically, there’s no place to take these people,” Zavadil said.

Platte County jailers responded to six inmate suicide attempts in the past few months, he said, and all of the inmates survived the attempts.

“We’ve had more suicide attempts in the last 60 to 90 days than we had in 10 years (since the jail opened in 2004),” Zavadil said.

Also, he said, the number of emergency protective custody cases handled by law enforcement officers, the county attorney’s office and jail has been rising in an up-and-down fashion over the past 10 years.

The county attorney’s office reported 66 such cases in 2005. That figure rose to 85 in 2006, 86 in 2007 and 90 in 2008. It dropped to 87 in 2009 and then hit 109 in 2010, 107 in 2011, 94 in 2012 and 101 in 2013.

The Platte County inmates who are picked up and deemed a danger to themselves or others are transferred to Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk. Usually within a few days the inmates are determined to be safe for confinement and returned to jail.

Officials say an inmate may repeat that cycle two or three times. Then the county normally transfers the inmate to the state Department of Correctional Services’ detention and evaluation center in Lincoln for a longer-term stay.

The detention and evaluation center provides no mental health services, said Platte County Attorney Carl Hart, but it is safer than jail for custodial detention.

For longer-term stays involving mental health treatment, inmates must wait for beds to open up at the state psychiatric hospital in Lincoln, Hart said.


Information from: Columbus Telegram, https://www.columbustelegram.com

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