Sheriff hopeful lawmakers will provide more inmate mental health funding

PRENTISS COUNTY, MISS. (WCBI) – Mississippi lawmakers are expected to deal with an issue that impacts law officers throughout the state, the need for more mental health funding for inmates.

Prentiss County Sheriff Randy Tolar said his deputies regularly get court orders to pick up someone with suspected mental health issues. The patient is supposed to go to a crisis center, or the state hospital, but often those facilities do not have enough beds. When that happens, deputies have no choice but to bring the patient to jail.

Sheriff Tolar said that must change.

“Law enforcement will be involved in this process, we are given order to pick these people , we are the ones responsible for transporting them and we don’t necessarily have a problem with that, the problem arises when you are putting people in jail that don’t need to be in jail,” said Sheriff Tolar.

Sheriff Tolar said his department does its best to separate the patient from the general population, providing separate cells and other services.

The problem is not unique to Prentiss County, and District 19 State Representative Randy Boyd said lawmakers could look at providing more funding for the crisis.

“We started drug court a few years back, it’s been successful, we are trying to look at some way we can have like a mental health court, along same lines as drug court,which helps people,” said Rep. Boyd.

The sheriff is confident lawmakers will address the issue and he hopes Mississippi will look to other states to see what has worked.

“I’m sure there’s other states out there, in our 50 states, that have other methods of doing this, handling this process, without people actually coming to jail,” said Sheriff Tolar.

The Sheriff said many of the people his office deals with have mental health issues made worse by drug abuse.

Sheriff Tolar said the mental health issue among inmates is the number one topic at the annual Mississippi Sheriff’s Association meeting

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