COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Boone County has created a coalition of agencies and parts of the government in hopes to provide inmates with better mental health services. Prosecutors, public defenders, judges, county commissioners and public administrators are on board with the coalition.
This coalition is working with the Missouri Association of Counties as it is pushing for state level assistance for the county jails.
Boone County Commissioner Janet Thompson said the county has not worked together to understand how many people has been impacted regarding mental health.
"We have not worked together across systems to understand who all has been impacted by some of our failures or systemic failures in this country with respect to treatment of mental health," Thompson said.
Boone County Prosecutor Roger Johnson said that he knows how important mental health is to the community.
"We have just too many people right now in the jail waiting for treatment at the Department of Mental Health, waiting for evaluation from the Department of Mental Health," Johnson said. "And that has a cost on the jail staff because they're not equipped and trained necessarily to deal with the particular challenges that they have."
Thompson said Missouri county jails are the largest mental health facilities in the county. In the United States, 64% of jail inmates, 54% of state prisoner, and 45% of federal prisoners have been diagnosed with a mental illness, according to the American Psychological Association.
In November 2023, there were 297 people in Missouri jails waiting for a mental-health evaluation before they can go to trial. Those people were ruled incompetent to stand trial, but waiting for hospital beds to open up to receive treatment.
Johnson said there is a process that happens when a judge orders a person to be evaluated at the state hospital.
"It's supposed to happen in 60 days, but by statute it's supposed to happen in 60 days. But now it's taken six months or more for just the evaluation to happen," Johnson said.
The Missouri Association of Counties proposed lawmakers help create and fund something called a reentry navigator to assist those who are released from the county jail. That navigator would help people released from jail connect with mental health resources, services that will keep them going to treatment and provide transportation to treatments.