A Warren County commissioner has met with Nashville Sheriff Daron Hall to discuss the successes behind mental health and substance abuse rehabilitation programs being offered at Davidson County Jail.
Commissioner Joseph Stotts is a strong advocate for providing Warren County Jail inmates suffering from mental disorders and substance abuse with a form of rehabilitation to stop the revolving door of incarceration.
“We’ve got to find ways to reach the inmates from a rehabilitation standpoint, but we also need to find ways to develop and implement jail diversion programs in the community,” said Stotts.
The hope of providing these rehabilitation programs is to allow these individuals to become productive members of society after being released from jail – not having them return to jail.
During the experience with Sheriff Hall in Nashville, Stotts learned of the many programs implemented in Nashville. Sheriff Hall says he has seen much success in stopping the continuous cycle of certain individuals coming in and out of the system, while also saving taxpayer dollars.
Generations donated the services of Kenneth Smith, a licensed professional counselor, to perform clinical counseling every Friday for the past several months to approximately nine inmates at Warren County Jail.
“We volunteered that service because of the need that was there,” says Stotts.
Since the county is now able to hire someone to do assessments and therapy with the inmates, Stotts feels it would be good to have someone in the booking area do a brief mental health survey on every individual booked, as well as gathering the data from those surveys to pinpoint the specific people who enter the jail with mental health issues to provide further support and counseling while the individuals are there.
Stotts noted it will also be helpful to determine the specific crimes being committed by the mentally ill. This will allow a preemptive look at ways to create jail diversion programs.
Nashville authorities found violating probation is the No. 1 crime committed by mentally ill individuals at Davidson County Jail. Davidson County officials have tried to find alternative ways to treat these individuals other than jail.
To house and feed an inmate costs $50 per day. Stotts hopes to create programs in the jail and work with judges and public defenders on ways to divert sentencing from the jail.
“It is actually two-fold of not only what we can do in the jail, but what we can do correctively before that,” says Stotts.
Major needs at Warren County Jail are in regard to staffing issues. Stotts says the jail has a 1-to-35 staff ratio, and with that ratio, many of the needs of the inmates are unable to be satisfied.
“Hiring extra staff will not only help manage the jail more effectively and prevent destruction in the jail by inmates that aren’t supervised, but it will also make it possible to supervise programs,” says Stotts. “The $50,000 line item in the budget was added specifically to hire someone to conduct licensed counseling at the jail.”
Stotts believes counseling and proper medication management will help.
“GED classes are important. However, until we provide treatment to get people stable, it is hard to hold down a job. It is hard to function independently in society with mental health issues still in existence,” says Stotts. “If both sides of the coin are not treated, we’re not going to be able to make an effective difference for those individuals.”
Stotts will take information he learned in Davidson County to local officials to see what can be implemented here.