Spartanburg Mental Health Court Could Improve Safety, Cut Costs - WSPA.com

Spartanburg Mental Health Court Could Improve Safety, Cut Costs

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A National Institute of Corrections assessment of the Spartanburg County Jail, obtained by 7 On Your Side, shows there are concerns among jail and county leaders about lack of services for inmates with mental health issues. A National Institute of Corrections assessment of the Spartanburg County Jail, obtained by 7 On Your Side, shows there are concerns among jail and county leaders about lack of services for inmates with mental health issues.

A National Institute of Corrections assessment of the Spartanburg County Jail, obtained by 7 On Your Side, shows there are concerns among jail and county leaders about lack of services for inmates with mental health issues.

Consultants also noted in the report completed this week that there is a lack of designated housing for mental health and suicide.

The sheriff and county leaders say something needs to happen in order to keep criminals from coming right back to jail after they get out. The solution could be a mental health court.

Debbie West is the president of the local chapter for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She's dealt with depression herself.

"Mental illness is treatable and it's critical that you offer the treatment," West said.

West blames budget cuts for reduced access to mental health care for the incarcerated and she's disappointed that diseases of the mind aren't taken as seriously as others.

"They get their medicines every day for diabetes so why can't they have the medicines that keeps their brain well," West said.

About one in every eight inmates at the county jail take some sort of medication for mental conditions, according to jail director Major Neal Urch. It's unclear how many more inmates have undiagnosed conditions.

"South Carolina has totally failed us on the mental health issue," Wright said.

Sheriff Chuck Wright said it comes down to money and safety and his staff isn't equipped for mental health treatment.

"Some of these people become very violent, they don't know. They don't mean to but they do."

He said if the money isn't spent for treatment after the first arrest it's like a revolving door.

That can lead to officers having to round up repeat offenders and money spent on more people locked up.

"This is a medical issue and we need to get medical personnel in the right positions to help. they're willing to help if we can get them to them," Wright said.

Spartanburg County Council voiced support for a mental health court Monday. County staff hopes to secure a grant from the federal government.

The $250,000 award would get the court started and leaders want to make room in future budgets to keep it going.

The program would be similar to Greenville County's mental health court.

The Spartanburg jail director stressed that the program would only allow non-violent offenders to go through court-monitored treatment instead of being locked up in jail.

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