COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Mentally-ill inmates at central Ohio’s biggest jail stay longer, return more frequently and often aren’t connected with the treatment they need after they leave, according to a new report.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center provided the report to county commissioners following a yearlong look at the mentally ill in the Franklin County jail.
The council used data from the sheriff’s office and the local mental health board to determine that 7 percent of people booked into the jail had been treated for a serious mental illness, the Columbus Dispatch reported (https://bit.ly/1EELApM).
About 60 percent of Franklin County jail inmates with a serious mental illness returned to the jail within three years, compared with 51 percent of those who are not mentally ill, according to the council’s report.
The mentally ill stay in jail an average of 32 days, compared with 20 days for other inmates, the report said. Treatment of the mentally ill extends into prisons, where one in five Ohio inmates has been diagnosed with a mental illness, the newspaper said.
The report recommends reducing the population by taking the mentally ill to treatment facilities instead of jail, not sending them to jail to await trial, and providing more intensive treatment in jail and afterward.
The report also recommends more training to help police officers and sheriff’s deputies identify mental illness and recommend area resources. It calls for expanding intervention programs and providing more information to judges who decide whether a person should be jailed or released while awaiting trial.
The sheriff’s office also needs to screen for mental illness at booking, the report said.
The county could save $5 million to $12 million a year by reducing the number of people in jail with mental illness by 40 percent, said Michael Daniels, policy director for Franklin County commissioner Marilyn Brown.
The Franklin County Municipal Court’s mental-health docket has 40 to 50 people in its program at a given time with room to grow, said Judge David Tyack. It reaches just a few of the 1,900 people who are in the jail at any time.
The sheriff’s office already has started making some changes, said Chief Deputy Geoff Stobart. It is negotiating for software that would allow deputies to alert local service agencies when their clients are in the jail, and a new jail will include additional mental-health cells
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, https://www.dispatch.com
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