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Jasper County implements training to help inmates with mental illness

A local law enforcement agency commits to help reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.

Officers can be a great resource for getting these individuals the help they need. If they don't, these individuals are very likely to reoffend. Officials in Jasper County are implementing training, hiring new personnel, and correlating with other agencies to ensure that those who are mentally ill are getting the care they need, and being treated fairly in the legal system.

For law enforcement, responding to a mentally ill individual takes different protocols.

"In the past we may have taken someone in who had a mental illness and we didn't necessarily know about it,” says Sheriff Randee Kaiser.

Mentally ill offenders have high rates of recidivism and often go without the care they need.

"Sometimes do things that are unintentional. They may be having a episode of mania or psychosis and not really realize that they didn't obey the law,” says Debbie Fitzgerald.

To help change that the Jasper County Sheriff's Office signed the "stepping up initiative resolution,” a commitment to better approaching individuals with mental health issues.

"Instead of issuing that person a summons or a ticket, it's best maybe to get them evaluated to see if they really do need some help or some services,” says Fitzgerald.

"For them that is a very real situation, if they feel like that there's people watching them or if they feel like stuff's happened to them that doesn't really make sense or is obviously not very realistic, we have to be sensitive to how we respond to those kind of things,” says Sheriff Randee Kaiser.

Officers will work directly with crisis intervention teams to determine on scene if someone is dealing with a mental health crisis.

"We might change our tone a little bit to maybe be a little bit more subdued and take a little bit more time,” says Sheriff Kaiser.

They've dedicated specific personnel to track mental health records and screen inmates. And help get them post-sentencing care.

"Go and get help for their mental illnesses and see professionals that might be able to help them and encourage them to pursue a different avenue that will keep them out of the justice system,” says Sheriff Kaiser.

This month each officers patrol car is also sporting a green mental health awareness ribbon.


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