Mental health professional screening jail inmates


    Mental health is a major problem across the United States. Even so, many mental health hospitals have closed.

    Some in law enforcement say because of that, they're seeing a lot more inmates with mental health needs in jails.

    The Cherokee County Sheriff's Office is among a handful of agencies who received funding for a mental health professional. It's helping them connect inmates with the help they need.

    Sam Griggs is a case manager at the Cherokee County Detention Center. His job is to screen every person for mental illness.

    “The corrections system has kind of become the de facto mental health intuition," Griggs said.

    Since he started in November, there have been 213 people to come through the jail. Sixty-one had a serious mental illness.

    One-hundred and eleven have had substance abuse issues. Thirty-eight showed signs of both.

    “That’s a pretty high number for a small county," Griggs said.

    Griggs' job doesn't stop there. He's often called out in the field with deputies.

    “I go out into the field to try to divert somebody who’s having issues, mental health issues from having to go to jail or come to the hospital," Griggs explained.

    Having a mental health professional around has been a big help to law enforcement.

    “We really had to get them to an ER to get them evaluated, by having a mental health professional on the scene it just facilitates that a lot quicker for us," Sheriff Jeff Shaver said.

    It also helps save the county money.

    “It cost money to have people in jail and if that person can get their treatment or their medication, then that’s what we want them to get," Sheriff Shaver said.

    The Stepping Up Initiative provided the money for Griggs' position. Their goal is to reduce the number of mentally ill inmates.

    They also want to reduce chances of those people coming back to jail.

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