Mental Health Crisis and Jails

Witnessing the increasing numbers of mental health patients in our county jails is a huge concern. In any given month at the Wyandotte County Adult Detention Center, we:

-admit 1280 inmates

-process 320 sick calls

-conduct 90 physicals

-conduct 650 mental health assessments

-issue medication to 270 inmates

-issue over 100 psychotropic medications

-care of 2 HIV infected inmates

-care for 4 pregnant females

-care for 3 suicide attempts

During all this activity with court, legal visits, family visits, farm outs and releases, it is extremely difficult to manage and care for the mentally ill or the medically disabled. Jail is not a good place to be, especially if you have a special need. Our jails are designed for short term confinement and to facilitate one’s judicial processes until the criminal laws of the state and federal government. We are unstaffed, underfunded and overextended. I believe this is true for most of the correctional facilities throughout the United States. I do not believe the people of any county government want “state of the art” correctional facilities and programs at the cost of education, healthcare or public roads.

The government’s economic crisis has threatened the mental health facilities within our state. If these facilities are closed, imminently we will see a rise in our jails populations. The two fastest growing populations in our jails are maximum custody and special needs inmates. These two populations, consequently, are the most costly inmates to care for and secure. Funding must be kept to keep our mental health facilities, as well as our correctional facilities, at acceptable levels.

History repeats itself. When you close mental health facilities and cut funding for our correctional facilities, our crime rates will skyrocket. Then we will have even more serious problems when our cities are no longer safe to work and live.

Jeffery Fewell is the Administrator of the Wyandotte County Adult Detention Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Fewell was one of many people who testified last week against closing the Rainbow Mental Health Facility to the Kansas Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission.


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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