Dougherty County Jail shines light on mental health issues with inmates

Dougherty County Jail shines light on mental health issues with inmates./ Photo: Alexandria Ikomoni

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but how often do we talk about mental health within a jail?

The Dougherty County Sherriff’s Office and the Dougherty County Jail are a part of the nationwide effort called the Stepping Up Initiative. This effort works to improve the growing problem of mental health issues with inmates.

Chief Jailer John Ostrander says in the Dougherty County Jail alone, 22 percent of inmates are getting mental health counseling, and 37 percent are taking some sort of mental health medication.

Ostrander says many of these people are in jail for low level charges like substance abuse, loitering or simple battery.

The jail does have a partnership to give mental health care and counseling to inmates.

Even though they are getting treatment inside the facility, Ostrander says a jail isn't a good location or environment for them to be in.

"It'll be better to divert them from the moment of arrest into a treatment facility rather than bring them to jail,” Ostrander said. “We are working towards that goal as well."

People at the jail are going through a Crisis Intervention Training, or CIT, to teach officers in the jail and on the streets to recognize signs and symptoms of mental health issues.

The goal is to train all staff members so people who need mental health care can get it instead of being brought to jail.

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