Report: Service lags for mentally ill in Va jails

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia doesn’t provide the same level of service to mentally ill people in jails that it does to those in the community, according to a report by the Office of the State Inspector General.

The report released Monday raises concerns about the lack of resources available to jails to effectively treat mentally ill inmates and highlights the lack of coordination between jails and community services boards to treat people while they are incarcerated and when they return to their communities.

“This review found that local and regional jails lacked the resources to develop and implement the policies and practices necessary to provide needed mental health services to incarcerated individuals with mental illness,” the report said. “Inadequate resources increased the risk that individuals with mental illness would deteriorate during their incarceration.”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (http://bit.ly/KZxZFf) that the number of mentally ill people in local and regional jails has increased by 30 percent since 2008.

According to the report, about 6,346 people with mental illness were incarcerated last September and 56 percent of them have serious mental conditions that most jails are ill-equipped to diagnose and treat.

In the final report, John W. Jones, executive director of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, said the state’s jails become the largest mental health providers in Virginia.

“The sheriffs are particularly interested in addressing the needs of the 3,000-plus individuals in jails (who) are in serious need of mental health services (who) are there because they are sick, not because they have committed serious crimes,” Jones wrote.

The inspector general’s recommendations include developing a strategy for funding mental health treatment for those in jail “that is proportional to the investment in support services for the same population in the community.” It also recommends effective communication between jails and community services boards when mentally ill people enter jails and when they leave.

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com

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