Cherokee County, SC (WSPA)
In an effort to help inmates who need it, The Mental Health Court Program Act was signed into Law in June of 2015.
It's a voluntary program that offers treatment to people instead of sending them behind bars. However, if they are in jail, they have the right to talk to a doctor, while they're behind bars.
Paton Blough is a mental health advocate, getting there was a hard road, he says, " I was arrested 6 times, I kept going in and out of jail, going in and out of hospitals was in Patrick B Harris three times.
Thankfully I was a early participant in something called Mental Health Court."
Blough nor jail officials knew his struggle with Bipolar Disorder, however, once diagnosed, the challenge became treatment options.
Paton says, "in my experience I found that proven programs cost a little money up front, but save tax payer dollars a lot down the road."
Mental health issues challenge many law enforcement facilities....
South Carolina law now requires deputies and jail workers to undergo mental health training, in order to better understand the rapidly changing prison population.
Major Stephen Anderson with the Cherokee County Detention Center
says, "all of our pre-service training go through special training to handle someone who may be excited delirium, who may be paranoid schizophrenic. Like many jails, the Cherokee County Detention Center faces overcrowding and inmates who struggle with mental health issues.
Just two years ago, they started making psychologist and psychiatrist available to the prison population 24/7 via teleconference.
Dr. Stephen Lucente says "I can work with the staff and work with the inmates to understand that they might not need as many or the serious medications that they've come to rely on."
After years of struggle, Patton is doing well, he's married with children and working with lawmakers to help those who are struggling behind bars with mental illness.
Paton says, " our leaders are trying, it's a large problem and it just doesn't turn in a day."
Greenville County officials also use, "Mental Health Court" in their facility.