The Durham County Sheriff’s Office is hopeful to have its mental health detainee pod up and running by the end of the first quarter of 2017. With the help of a three-year, $228,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and an additional $55,205 in matching funds from the county, the jail will be able to provide better care for detainees suffering from mental illness.
According to the sheriff’s office, at least 20 percent of the inmates in the jail receive some form of mental health services, including medication. So the sheriff’s office, along with the county’s Criminal Justice Resource Center, are creating a new intake process that will help identify the needs of the inmates.
Sheriff Mike Andrews said mental health care gaps were caused by limited funding—“putting county jails, like ours, on the front line of mental health care.” The new process will also help the sheriff’s office finds ways to make sure once an inmate leaves, they’re less likely to return.
Detention services director Lt. Col. Natalie Perkins says the grant will allow for additional officer training, specifically around mental health first aid and crisis intervention.
The new mental health pod will house a maximum of twenty-four detainees that will be served by specially trained officers and a nurse from Correct Care Solutions. In the event there are more than twenty-four people in need of mental health services in the jail at one time, the most severe cases will be housed in the pod and others will continue to reside in the general population.
Gudrun Parmer with the Criminal Justice Resource Center said the grants allow for the housing of the “most fragile and most vulnerable individuals” in the jail, and will streamline care.
“Think of this almost as a mental health clinic inside of the facility," Parmer says. "You can come here and see everyone instead of going all over the building."