• April 17, 2024

Local partnership is centered on inmate mental health 2023

Mario Morales sees it daily. The Glynn County Sheriff’s Office takes custody of untreated mental health patients in the Glynn Detention Center.

“Unofficially, jails are the largest caregivers for mental health issues in this state, and probably the entire country,” Morales added.

Georgia has five state mental facilities, limiting treatment beds for pre-incarceration patients. Community service boards like Gateway Behavioral Health in Brunswick and commercial institutions like St. Simons by the Sea offer certain assistance, but law enforcement officers in Coastal Georgia typically have just one location to transport a mental health crisis patient.

Morales remarked, “Unfortunately, sending them to jail is often the solution.” “We’re responsible for their health, safety, security, and even drama when they’re in jail.”

Chandler wants freed prisoners to undergo mental and general health treatment.

Morales said around a third of the Glynn County Detention Center’s 600 prisoners had mental health issues. He said that’s why the sheriff’s office’s Coastal Community Health relationship is so vital.

Since Dr. Kavanaugh Chandler became Coastal Community Health’s executive director two years ago, the clinic has offered basic health treatment to prison inmates. Inmates get mental health care.

“Hopefully in the process of seeing them in the jail they will feel comfortable after release (and) come to us for health and mental health needs,” Chandler said.

He thinks this new approach to convict health care will benefit the state. Coastal Community Health receives grants and other funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide excellent care to all. The clinic can offer the jail a full range of services at a lower cost than third parties.

Morales said the sheriff’s office and taxpayers save money.

“Besides salaries, the jail is our biggest cost,” he remarked. “One inmate costs $52 per day.”

The financial model permits the clinic to provide cheap treatment to anybody who needs it, regardless of income. Chandler claimed that prepares the facility to treat mentally sick and addicted ex-convicts.

“If we can prevent one person from being arrested and going back to jail then it’s a success,” Chandler said.

Chandler and Sheriff Neal Jump met with state Attorney General Chris Carr recently to examine how portion of Georgia’s $636 million opioid settlement with pharmaceutical corporations may boost local partnerships.

Coastal Community Health has also created a team of mental health specialists that local law enforcement agencies may call in a crisis. It will also help establish the Glynn County Police Department’s Behavioral Health Response Team.

“It’s been a fulfilling experience, far more than we anticipated,” Chandler added.

He said that he will not slow down community mental health activities.

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