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San Diego County program to prioritize health of inmates

Posted at 12:43 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 15:43:36-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- San Diego County leaders on Wednesday announced a significant investment in the health of those incarcerated in county facilities.

Under the initiative, $25 million will be set aside to hire 160 staff members, offer assessments, addiction treatment, and medication to people who are in custody. Funding will also help connect people to services once they are released from a county detention facility.

San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher said, “We're going to spend the money either way. We’re either going to spend it on you continuing to come back, and break the law, and be incarcerated, and released … or we’re going to spend it on maybe helping you get well and not come back.”

Fletcher was joined by county Undersheriff Kelly Martinez, and Behavioral Health Services Director Dr. Luke Bergmann to announce the signing of a memorandum of understanding.

According to Bergmann, 70 percent of inmates entering county jails are addicted to a substance.

Right now, according to Martinez, the only treatment for behavioral, mental health, or addiction is offered to incarcerated women who are pregnant.

Martinez said there are currently no standard, comprehensive assessments done at intake, which can also lead to overdose or other medical crises.

Those who come to jail on opioids are left to withdrawal without treatment, which Bergmann said leads to further abuse once they're out.

All of these services, from medication to behavioral and mental health treatments, are meant to lower rates of recidivism.

Martinez said for anyone who says we shouldn't care about people in jail, it also ultimately leads to lower crime rates and safer communities.