San Diego County to start program aimed at helping mentally ill inmates

1 in 3 inmates in San Diego needs treatment
Posted at 7:14 AM, May 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 11:40:19-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday will start a program to make sure San Diego Jail inmates get the mental health treatment they need.

The program, called Stepping Up, is a part of the National Association of Counties, and it is something County Supervisor Greg Cox has thrown his full support behind.

"It's not going to be any one simple answer," Cox said. "It's going to be a number of different efforts and approaches."

Jails and prisons across the country have become de-facto mental health hospitals, Cox said.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department, which runs the San Diego Jail, says 28 percent to 35 percent of the inmates are using some kind of psychotropic drug for treatment.

Also, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with mental illness are 10 times more likely to be in jail than in a treatment facility.

Those are numbers Cox hopes the new program can help.

"I don't think anybody thought we'd end up with our county jails being the largest provider of mental health services," he said. "Clearly, they weren't designed for that, and I don't think we were prepared for that."

On Tuesday, the full Board will take up the issue. They'll direct the sheriff's department and the County District Attorney's Office to come up with plans for better treatment.

Additionally, the new budget has an extra $2.2 million allocated for the program.

The sheriff's department and district attorney's office have 90 days to report back to the Board with their plans.