Taney County Jail adds more mental healthcare for inmates

The Taney County Sheriff's Office will spend an additional $20,000 per year on psychiatric care.

Previously, the jail provided inmates two hours of psychiatric services every week. Now, it’ll offer 10 hours per week.

It’s a cost that the county is taking on as the state is cutting back its budget for mental healthcare.

"We've had a lot of mental health issues in the jail," Sheriff Jimmie Russell said.

Russell says that's partly because they're taking in more inmates than ever.

"More recently now we are running 220. So, it's just a continual increase of the jail population," Russell said.

As this need grows locally, help from the state government is shrinking.

"It's hard for me to comprehend why the state is cutting back on mental health budgets all the time while we have an increasing need for it," Russell said.

It's not only Taney County that is dealing with the need for more mental healthcare. In Stone County, the healthcare provider only sends a psychiatrist every other week, while an estimated 20 percent of the jail population needs mental help.

Sheriff Russell says the growing drug problem only adds to the issue.

"As the drug addictions increase, the more of those people you deal with, the more mental health issues you deal with," Russell said.

Local Psychiatrist Shahid Insaf says that's because underneath drug addiction is often untreated mental illness.

"There are criminals and there are people who do bad things and nothing can stop them from doing that because that's just their consciousness. [However,] a lot of people who are in jail are actually people who are struggling with something else and that has led to a cascade of events that they have become trapped in," Dr. Insaf said.

Dr. Insaf says giving inmates needed care could help keep them out of jail after they're released.

"Treating the underlying condition and preventing a person from having the cravings for that particular drug often prevents them from relapsing," Dr. Insaf said.

He and local officials agree, that's something that benefits the community as a whole.

"It's not just that one person that you're helping. You're actually helping a whole host of people," Dr. Insaf said.

The change in mental healthcare service in the Taney County Jail is an amendment to the contract that the county already had with its healthcare provider.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.