Work to address gaps in Virginia's mental health system has turned to the treatment provided in state jails. A report from the state inspector general's office says care is deficient, but officials at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail say that's not the case there.
Deputy Director Martin Kumar says the report may be accurate for Virginia as a whole, but not for the jail where he works. He says it has been a goal for nine years to make certain inmates with mental health issues leave better than they arrived.
The report says inadequate resources increase the risk that mentally ill inmates will get worse during their incarceration, enough to possibly pose a threat to the community upon release. But Kumar defends the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.
“I think overall it is accurate, I just think if they broke it down to individual facilities there would be a different take on it,” he said. “They don't get worse while they are here; we try to make them better.”
Director of health services Juanita Morris says many of the recommendations the report makes have already been implemented. For example, inmates are assessed and treated as soon as they arrive.
“On that screening is what medications they may have, have they seen mental health or are there concerns for suicide?” Morris said.
A triage nurse sees them as well and medical records are requested so care can continue. And before an inmate goes home, preparations are made to make sure treatment is uninterrupted.
Morris says, if there was anything she would like to see improved, it is the system of Medicaid and Medicare so that funding resumes more quickly when inmates leave. But that is completely out of the jail's control.
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