Sheriff: Jail has become ‘clearing house’ for those with mental health issues

MARSHALL CO. — Inmates at the Marshall County Jail have some mental health problems —more so now than ever before according to Sheriff Tom Chamberlin.
“The jailers are dealing with more mental health issues than we have in the past,” said Chamberlin while discussing his 2012 annual report recently. “Most of the jails in the state are being used as a clearing house for those with mental (issues) because we don’t have the institutions we’ve had before and we have higher unemployment. We have these individuals who need (treatment) and it is not available to them, so they end up committing crimes and going to jail.”
Chamberlin continued, “This is something that the jail is not really equipped for. It takes more time and causes stress for jailers to take care of mental health patients.”
He noted that the jail works with the Bowen Center to provide treatment for inmates.
“(Bowen Center personnel) come in weekly and assess inmate requests and jailer requests for prisoners to be seen for mental health issues,” said Chamberlin, adding, “Pretty much the treatment we give is prescription drugs…that is paid for by taxpayers.”
“I don’t know what the solution is,” said Chamberlin. “Where do these people fit in? They end up in jails and prisons, but is that the place for them? Not to get treatment.”
Also in the 2012 jail report, 409 people were arrested for operating while intoxicated compared to just 297 in 2011. Chamberlin said that he’s noticed that more of those arrested in this category are under the influence of drugs rather than alcohol.
“Law enforcement is just doing a better job of locating identifying impairment,” said Chamberlin. “The availability of training for officers has increased and our officers are more aware.”
He said that officers are trained to notice drug impairment during field sobriety tests on the side of the road and will send individuals in to be tested at the hospital. A relatively new field sobriety test enables officers to check for individuals under the influence of marijuana.
Marijuana is the most common substance in operating while intoxicated arrests, said Chamberlin.
“Marijuana…is still more available (than other drugs),” said Chamberlin.
He said that another factor contributing to an increase in OWI arrests is Operation Pullover, which is done about every quarter.
“(During Operation Pullover) we come in contact more with offenders,” said Chamberlin.