Mt Pleasant News
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Neighbors Growing Together | May 21, 2018

Mental health treatment for inmates added to county’s 2018-2019 fiscal budget

Jan 24, 2018

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News

 

The Henry County Sheriff’s Office has three big items in their budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year that will increase the bottom line, including mental health treatment for inmates at the jail.*

In presenting his budget to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Jan. 23, Sheriff Rich McNamee said that there are a lot of gray areas this year as plans for the new jail get underway. McNamee increased the Sheriff’s budget proposal by $36,280 this year. Mental health treatment, new radios and cameras for deputies, and an increase to room and board contributed to the overall increase.

Mental health for inmates will become more of a priority this year with McNamee adding mental health to the budget for $7,500 a year. Previously, mental health treatment for inmates was emergency care only. McNamee said that the contract with Advance Correctional Healthcare will be able to do more for the inmates than jail transition staff is able to.

“They can come up and actually consult with inmates, seek treatment, apply medication, etcetera,” McNamee said. “That’s really cheap for mental health treatment.”

Deputies will be receiving two new radios and two new car cameras for $25,430 this year. McNamee said that radios are “terribly expensive” and have a life-span of about 15 years. The two newest radios the department has are already 12 years old. McNamee said that all the radios need to be replaced, really, it’s just about finding room in the budget.

As for the expense of the two new squad car cameras, McNamee said that price is included in the budget, but will be granted back as revenue.

“I’m conservative, but I want our people to have the resources they need to do our jobs,” McNamee said. He reassured that because they get the best equipment and cycle it out on a regular basis, there is nearly no place in the county his deputies can’t be reached by radio.

The only dead zones in the county where dispatchers can’t be reached by radio are near Geode State Park and Hillsboro. “It’s a very small [dead zone] near Hillsboro,” McNamee said. “You have to be standing behind the wrong tree at the wrong time in the wrong weather. However, there are times at Geode you could be in trouble.”

With the department spending $160,000 of their budgeted $170,000 for room and board for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, McNamee increased room and board $30,000. He said they will be over the current budget by at least that this year.

Without these three budget items, McNamee said that his budget would actually decrease by $26,650.

However, another big expense item McNamee proposed was adding an 11th jailer to the facility or bringing back a couple part-time workers. Currently, the facility has nine jailers.

“Our jailers are stretched thin,” McNamee said, explaining that jailers take care of sitting with mental health patients in the ER when deputies are not available to do it. Once a person is in the ER for mental health issues and is noncombative, McNamee said they send in the jail staff because it is less cost to the taxpayers than letting a deputy sit with them.

“Mental commitments are burdensome for my department,” he said. “We’re wearing our jailers thin. They’re working overtime, which kills our budget and burns out our people.”

Supervisor Marc Lindeen asked whether the department will need 11 jailers anyway once the new jail is built. McNamee said that they are going to do a labor study, but they really won’t know until they are in the new facility.

County auditor Shelly Barber said that this, along with other questions that will arise once the new jail is built and being utilized, are things that can’t yet be judged when it comes to budget.

Other items on the budget for the next fiscal year are new uniforms for the deputies and five new bulletproof vests. McNamee also proposed $1,000 in the canine expense account for veterinary expenses, dog food and training and the annual dog certification class.

The dog the department currently has is six years old. McNamee said he has at least two or three years left on the force, but it “depends on luck, quite frankly.” McNamee said the dog has earned his keep already and the department will look to replace him when the time comes.

The Sheriff’s office also will be replacing vehicles 3 and 5 — a truck and an SUV. McNamee said the trade-in value on those two vehicles, with estimates of $6,000, will be more than what they got back trading in the cars last year.

In other news, McNamee presented Supervisors with the final preliminary floor plan of the new jail. The last changes made to the floor plan were Dec. 22, 2017. Supervisors will vote on the preliminary floor plan before they are able to take bids for construction.

 

*Originally read that mental health treatment would be a priority at the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility, when in fact, the mental health treatment will become more of a priority for the jail in the 2019 Sherff’s fiscal budget. The News apologizes for the error.

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