Jail diversion program statistics shows need for more mental health services across southeast Iowa

There were 43 individuals in eight southeast Iowa counties who could have avoided jail or arrest had alternative mental health services been available, according to data from the jail diversion program?s fiscal year 2018.

During a Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday, Sept. 6, Sarah Berndt, Henry County Transition program director and Coordinator of Disability Services shared data received during fiscal year 2018 related to working with mental health patients in the jails. Transition Link is a program designed to assist people with mental health problems in receiving help to avert repeat offenses.

The data is tracked based on jail booking, length of stay and connections to mental health treatment. The cost of the program during FY18 was $183,000.

The two most telling questions inmates are asked during booking to get placed in the program are: Are you on medications for mental health? And have you been hospitalized for mental health? Of inmates questioned, 765 responded that they were on medications for mental health and 679 said they had been hospitalized in the past.

Transition Link then connected inmates to treatments, referring 203 people to substance abuse evaluations 44 to residential substance abuse services, 133 people to outpatient mental health services, 177 to Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and 137 to Medicaid.

From November 2017 to July 2018, the average length of stay for inmates across the eight counties was 56 days.

In other news, supervisors approved two grant requests for the Henry County Sheriff?s Office.

The first was a traffic safety grant from the Iowa Governors? Traffic Safety Bureau of $20,900. The grant covers training related travel, educational materials and two car cameras for law enforcement vehicles.

The second grant was a tobacco enforcement grant, which the county applies for annually to assist in the 20 tobacco checks they do in the county for anyone with a tobacco license, excluding municipalities with their own enforcement agencies, McNamee said. Each tobacco check costs $75 a piece. Reimbursement by the state is $1,500.

There were four violations last year for tobacco, McNamee said.