by Comprehensive Staff
Many inmates in the Walla Walla County Jail suffer from mental health or chemical dependency illnesses. In response, the Walla Walla County Department of Corrections has instituted new programs to provide behavioral health treatment and support for inmates. Using funds from a 0.1% sales tax started in 2012, inmates will be screened for serious behavioral health concerns. Those inmates identified as having a serious mental health concern will be evaluated by a mental health professional upon admission to the jail and, if needed, will be entered into support and treatment programs throughout their stay. Chemical dependency professionals will provide support and treatment for individuals afflicted with chemical addictions while mental health professionals will provide counseling, therapy, and case management for individuals with mental illnesses. A psychiatric nurse practitioner will manage the medication needs of individuals suffering from mental illnesses in conjunction with the health care group providing care for the physical needs of individuals. Case management will also plan for the needs of inmates being released from jail including advanced planning for healthcare, including insurance, housing, and social supports necessary to help prevent them from re-offending.
Central Washington Comprehensive Mental Health is also developing a comprehensive training program with the Walla Walla County Department of Corrections staff on crisis intervention, emphasizing symptom recognition, intervention, and referral for additional services. Serenity Point Counseling, and Walla Walla County Department of Community Health are also partnering in this effort.
These initiatives all are modeled after the National Association of Counties, the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation’s Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails. According to a recently released report, Addressing Mental Illness and Medical Conditions in County Jails, "A large share of the jail population has a mental illness or medical condition, often accompanied by substance use disorders. Based on an analysis of U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics data, 40 percent of inmates have a chronic medical condition and 64 percent have a mental illness.”
Michael Bates, Director of the Department of Corrections states “These new initiatives will provide our best opportunity to help our inmates re-integrate with society and reduce the recidivism rates, improving the quality of life for our community and our former inmates and reducing the costs of our criminal justice system.”
More information is available by contacting Michael Bates at 509.524.5430 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.