- Associated Press - Saturday, December 1, 2018

MOORHEAD, Minn. (AP) - A recently renovated county jail in Minnesota is now better equipped to treat inmates with mental health issues with its separate behavioral health unit and increased resources for inmates.

The Clay County Correctional Facility in Moorhead underwent a $52 million renovation that included adding an 18-bed behavioral health unit, Minnesota Public Radio reported . The unit features soundproofing to help keep noise to a minimum, as well as individual cells and a shared space outside the cells.

Staff hope to keep more detailed data on inmates with mental illness, and expand training and programming to address inmates’ mental health needs, said Julie Savat, the jail’s administrator.

“We’ve got to remember these people are in our community,” she said. “They could be our neighbors. They could be people we work with. Everybody can have problems. We’ve got to get away from the mindset where you throw them in jail and throw away the key, and it’s all about punishment. That’s not going to help anybody in the long run.”

The county has also approved having two full-time mental health care providers work from the jail.



Ensuring inmates have access to mental health programs once they leave the jail is another issue county officials are focusing on, said Rhonda Porter, Clay County’s social services director.

“If we have nothing to offer when they’re released back to the community, and we haven’t been able to address their housing needs, or their health care needs or their mental health or substance use needs out in the community, the revolving door will happen,” she said.

County officials are still creating measures that will assess if the changes were successful.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

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