It’s not a secret that many of our nation’s prisons do not provide adequate mental health care to prisoners. Defendants who have mental health problems oftentimes have difficult experiences when dealing with our country’s justice system. Yakima County jail has decided to face this problem face on by creating a program to handle that concern. The jail, located on the edge of the Yakima Nation reservation, is confident that the program will benefit both the inmates and employees.

jail-cells-429638_960_720Over 25% of those who are incarcerated there are qualified to receive support for their mental health issues. American jails are required to provide inmates with medical care, but not obligated to do the same for mental health. However, Yakima has decided to dedicate a quarter of a million dollars per year to help pay for mental health experts to work there. This will ensure that inmates will receive care if they need it and provide a sense of safety to those around that specific person

Yakima County Jail has been working closely with Central Washington Comprehensive Mental Health to develop the program. It has taken 20 years, but together, the two have set a solid foundation so far as they have created a mental health team. This specific team is staffed by two case managers, an assistant, two therapists, and two therapists. Together, the team helps over 90 to 100 people per week.

Once referred to the program, the team interviews every individual and create a path to provide the best treatment. These range from learning coping skills to being prescribed medication if warranted.  Alongside direct help, the team will give their voice in where the inmates should reside within the jail. This will ensure that problems will be eliminated before they have the chance to arise.

Besides providing inmates with the care they need, the staff receives training as well. Staff members are trained in recognizing strange behaviors and statements. This will help to identify people who need help or to prevent further self injury. By providing this proper training, staff members can work hand in hand with the team and ensure their own safety, the safety of others and prevent any future instances.

For a detailed report on the program, check out this article by the Seattle Times!