GALLIPOLIS — Meigs and Gallia County officials met with mental health and addiction service representatives outside the Gallia County Courthouse on Tuesday to discuss a new $125,000 behavioral services grant being distributed to the two county’s respective jails.
Local and state officials gathered outside the courthouse around 11 a.m. Tuesday to a small crowd of individuals before the announcements were made.
According to information obtained from the meeting and from paperwork provided from Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services, the jail-diversion grant is geared to connect incarcerated individuals with appropriate medications and treatment through local behavioral care provider Woodland Centers. Officials hope these actions will prevent and lessen admissions into state-run psychiatric centers like Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare. With inmates treated and screened in jail locations, money and time can be saved. Recidivism will supposedly be reduced as behavioral issues that affect criminal behavior are addressed, officials said.
“Our department runs six state psychiatric hospitals around Ohio. We have just under 1,100 beds. Access is always something that’s on our minds. In these last few weeks, we’ve had only 25 to 35 beds available on any given day around the state. That’s a concern because if someone goes into crisis, we don’t want someone to have to go hundreds of miles to access a bed,” said Tracy Plouck, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services director. “If you have more mental health services on site, you can help to kind of stave off the need for additional higher levels of care in at least some circumstances.”
Plouck said with resources in place for the next “two years,” the hope would be to aid serious crisis situations in Gallia and Meigs County’s jails.
“For a long time, there has been a gap in funding for people in jail. This project will give Woodland Centers Inc., the opportunity to provide services to those who would otherwise not receive them. It will allow us to help reduce the number of jail transfers to ABH, but also deliver services that have a positive impact in the communities we serve,” said Kevan Mock, WCI director of operations.
“From my perspective, we are the mandate statutory authority to provide funding for services we plan then monitor. When individuals are incarcerated and lose access to their health care coverage when a provider would try to provide coverage, it would go unpaid,” said Ron Adkins, executive director of Gallia-Jackson-Meigs Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services. “Much of the care provided would be charity. This gives us an opportunity to put (health care providers) in and continue to provide a spectrum of care rather than short-term one-time emergency care.”
“I think everyone struggles for jail space and appropriate services,” said Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning. “When you’re getting inmates in, most of them, not all, but most of them, have some form of drug addiction and a lot of those people also suffer from some form of mental illness. From slight to severe, providing those services is a struggle. These funds will allow us to treat someone at the jail instead of having to drive them all the way to Athens.”
“We constantly deal with these people on our level and struggle with how to come to a solution. Meeting with Woodland and (other behavioral officials) kind of gives us a direction, a new and better direction. I think that’s the best way to look at this,” said Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood. “I think mainly what we run into is a funding and money issue when trying to make initiatives happen. This is giving us a better plan to see where the two-year plan will go, having someone come into our office twice a week that’s going to discuss issues with inmates.”
Abbey Russell, as Woodland Centers’ manager of forensic programs, will oversee the aid and communication of plans with inmates in Gallia and Meigs for the program.
“We’ve been having a lot of meetings with everybody in law enforcement agencies where we are going to serve. And we have forms for the CO’s to fill out and identify clients, whether its for emergency evaluation or counseling and case management services,” Russell said. She said by providing structure for inmates to help continue with treatment in or out of jail, recidivism should go down.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.