Mental Health Board Hears Sheriff Talk About Cramped Jail Issues | local government

Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand made a presentation to the Geauga County Board of Mental Health at its April 20 board meeting about the difficult conditions at the Geauga County Security Center.

The security center, located at 12450 Merritt Rd., treated 1,887 inmates in 2021. Medical staff saw 77 inmates for psychiatric treatment.

Of the 182 beds in the prison, there are 9 admission cells. Inmates who arrive at the prison while they have a mental health condition, are intoxicated, in chemical withdrawal or as a result of a violent crime must be placed in these nine cells. They must be eliminated before they can enter the general population.

As of April 20, the prison had 65 male inmates and 13 female inmates. Eighty percent of inmates at the jail have a mental health condition, some more serious than others, Sheriff Hildenbrand said.

Thirty-four percent of inmates take medication. The prison spent $34,200 on this drug in one year. A prisoner had to be vaccinated at the cost of $1,000 a month for nine months. Part of the money spent on psychotropic drugs is reimbursed by the state.

Over the past year, the number of mental health problems in the prison has steadily increased, with medical staff calling for increased monitoring of these prisoners, which has caused the nine admission cells to fill quickly and stay filled, Sheriff Hildenbrand said. There were times when nonviolent prisoners could not be accepted into prison.

The doctor and nurse practitioner are strained, and the prison therapist is gone, with unsuccessful attempts to replace her.

Consequently, many prisoners are not treated for their mental health.

“Cases like this are so tragic because they are preventable,” Sheriff Hildenbrand said. “The sad truth is that, despite improvements over the past 30 years, correctional systems continue to struggle to meet the vast needs of the growing number of mentally ill prisoners.

The other disconnect comes when many prisoners leave prison with no safe place to go.

“We need someone to watch them,” Sheriff Hildenbrand said. “In this industry, we’ve all seen people who are fine while taking their medication, but when they stop, they have problems.”

Chair Jennifer Malainy said the council was honored to have Sheriff Hildenbrand at the meeting.

“We appreciate him and all of our Geauga County MPs,” Ms. Malainy said.

Following Sheriff Hildenbrand’s presentation, Ms. Malainy requested that a follow-up item be placed on the agenda for next month’s regular board meeting, scheduled for May 25. At that time, the council will re-evaluate the sheriff’s words and requests and plan possible next steps.

The board also approved Torchlight’s request for additional funding of $25,000, for a total of $85,000 for 2022 and 2023.

The Geauga County Mental Health and Recovery Board helps fund two of the five programs Torchlight offers: the community mentorship and foster care transition programs, Malainy said.

Torchlight has requested a specified amount of funding for the state’s 2022 fiscal year. The board granted a partial distribution and asked them to come back to the board to request more funds if/when needed.

Torchlight has measured results and so far, according to Director Tia Lawrence, it has been amazing to see the difference and impact the foster care transition program has had on young people.

Ms Lawrence said Torchlight is very grateful to the Mental Health and Recovery Council for supporting his program and providing funds so he can continue to help community members.

The board will continue to monitor funding needs across all agencies, Ms Malainy said.

The board met in executive session to discuss hiring a lawyer.

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