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Navigating the System

Camalot Todd, the author of “Navigating The System: The Holding Center’s History with Mental Health, Suicides, and Substance Use,” writes that “in every country in the U.S. that has both a county jail and a county psychiatric facility, more seriously mentally ill people are incarcerated than hospitalized” (The Treatment Advocacy Center). This needs to change. “[Jails] were never designed to be treatment centers, hospitals, clinics,” says Thomas Diina, the superintendent of the Erie County Holding Center. “But unfortunately, because of changes in the community, not within the jails, we have become the de facto treatment centers.” Furthermore, there have been 30 deaths since 2005 at the Erie County Holding Center. “Of those 30 deaths, 20 of those individuals who died did so by suicide or had underlying mental health and substance abuse issues,” writes Todd. Diina emphasizes that this is not just an issue relative to Erie County, but to the nation as a whole. 

 

What has been done to help this issue?

In 2009, the Department of Justice filed a complaint against the Erie County Jail. They said that the jail violated the constitutional rights of the people incarcerated there. “In 2010, the jail agreed to let the DOJ have oversight of its health and security department.” Diina says that “it has been a great help to us. We’ve had access to national-level experts, best practices. Also, it really made hiring, training, implementation of new programming, and capital improvements much easier to secure funding for.” Besides the DOJ taking over, they also required the jail to “have a staffing analysis.” They needed an additional 72 line officers, says Diina.

 

What are some possible solutions?

Todd says that they can “advocate for legislators to look to communities that also dealt with these issues — like Bexar County in Texas.” Bexar County implemented “The Restoration Center,” which is “a place where people can be completely diverted from the criminal justice system and given immediate care.” This care includes around the clock mid-level physical, mental, behavioral health care.

 

Villa Tranquil Recovery is committed to keeping people out of jails by getting them the help they need at our facility. We can help you today. To learn more about the programs we offer, call us now at 866-697-7573. We can’t wait to hear from you!