COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — Inmates with mental illnesses continue to fill up jails across the state – including north Mississippi.
Lowndes County Jail Administrator Rick Jones says he sees a steady flow of inmates with mental illnesses at his jail. It’s a state-wide problem.
“The bottom line is, it’s cost a lot of money,” Jones said. “You can’t just simply take a mentally ill person, and lock them away. They have to be provided treatment, and rehabilitation.”
The issue is getting them out of jail, and into a state facility or place that can help them.
“Unfortunately in Mississippi, we don’t have enough beds to go around. We get put on a waiting list,” Jones said.
Jones says at least 14 of their inmates are waiting on mental evaluations – two of them since 2009.
“We have enough people moving in and out that we are able to accommodate them, but eventually they have to move out too, ’cause if not, we’ll start filling up, and wind up becoming a mental institution, as compared to the jail that we are.”
While the Lowndes County jail isn’t overcrowded now, Jones says they are still taking space, and the cost to keep them there isn’t cheap.
“We have a doctor on staff. We have nursing on staff, but also, if we have to make arrangements to go to other physicians’ offices to be treated or to be seen, and it’s the whole time they’re here,” Jones said. “It’s the people of Lowndes County that’s footing the bill for this too.”
Experts say putting a stop to the problem starts at home.
“Especially family members, is making sure the patients are staying on their meds,” said Glenda Buckhalter, Columbus Community Outreach coordinator. “I think if they stay on their medications, then we won’t have some of the problems that we’re having with them.”
The Lowndes County jail currently has more than 230 inmates. It can hold 288.