County moves to reduce jail stays linked to mental health issues
Ric Bishop, Sheriff's Office
Vancouver, WA – Clark County is expecting to reduce the potential for repeated arrests and recurring jail time for inmates with mental health problems through improved staffing for its jail and jail work center in 2014.
The Board of County Commissioners today approved a request from Clark County Sheriff Garry Lucas to add two discharge planners to help inmates arrange treatment for mental illness and chemical dependency when they are released from jail.
“Community organizations have volunteered to help people released from the jail. However, we do not have professionals to screen and connect these people to mental health, addiction and other existing services,” said Ric Bishop, the Sheriff’s Chief Jail Deputy. “These new positions will be a big help in keeping them out of the revolving jail doors.”
Funding will be included in proposed adjustments to the county’s budget this spring. The $148,500 needed each year will come from sales tax revenue dedicated to treatment programs.
“This is one more tool aimed at addressing special needs that make it difficult for people to succeed and increase costs for ensuring public safety” said Board Chair Tom Mielke. “We want to help them become more stable and productive and help law enforcement be efficient.”
In 2012, the Board approved $545,000 to upgrade the main jail to help prevent suicide and self-inflicted injuries resulting from mental illness and other factors.