Bell County: Number Of Inmates With Mental Health Issues Rises

By: Rachel Cox Email
By: Rachel Cox Email

BELL COUNTY (July 24, 2013) --- Bell County Jail officials say a lack of mental illness treatment options across the state could be leave local taxpayers to foot the bill for inmates with mental health problems.

About 40 percent of the inmates in the jail are currently being treated for mental illness or are on medication.

"Those numbers have increased so much that we can't keep up with those numbers our local mental health authority can't keep up with them, there's a waiting list currently to get into see them," Bell County Jail Mental Health Officer Arden Rivenbark said.

"We do everything we can here to get them back on their medication but if they don't take a responsibility to follow with it when they get back into the free world there's a gap in services there," Bell County Jail Mental Health Professional Marcia Sinegal said.

Bell County does not have a psychiatric hospital that treats inmates which means some offenders have to be taken to Austin for treatment.

Wait-lists at facilities in the area have also added to the problem.

"If they have to go through MHMR then there's a waiting list so they have to get on that waiting list and it usually takes several months because its backlogged as well to get seen, so now again you have that gap where they resort to self-medicating or just taking no medication," Sinegal said.

Jail staffers say offenders with a mental health issue can sometimes stay up to three for four months longer behind bars than an inmate without a disorder.

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