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297 Missourians in jail await mental health evaluations


The Missouri Department of Mental Health is experiencing an increase in individuals in jail awaiting a mental health evaluation.

According to Jeanette Simmons, the deputy director for the Division of Behavioral Health, 297 people in Missouri jails are currently waiting for a mental-health evaluation before they can go to trial. Those people have been ruled incompetent to stand trial, but are waiting for hospital beds to open up to receive treatment.

Jeanette Simmons said the longer wait times stems from an increase in people needing the services.

"So, the volume of individuals that are getting referred to us for evaluations has gone up, increased two fold, three fold over the past two years," Simmons said. "For the individuals waiting in mission for competency restoration, it's a matter of we have more referrals than we have bed space."

Simmons noted steps are being taken to decrease the amount of people waiting for a test. This includes a team of employees from the department going into jails to provide treatment to inmates. Simmons also said that a change in a law now allows outpatient treatment, and that a possible bill in Kansas City could lead to an increase in beds.

While awaiting an evaluation or admission, all legal proceedings are put on pause. For this reason, Simmons said it is crucial to provide treatment for the individuals as quickly as possible.

"So, that's where those mobile teams come into play: Where they can go in and start getting individuals the appropriate medication and treatment that they need while they're waiting," Simmons said.

Tasca Tolson, a counselor and trauma professional for TMT consulting, works with individuals who have been arrested on charges related to domestic violence. According to Tolson, a number of those people have a history of mental illness.

"I want to say 90% of the people that come through my class that have been mandated by the courts or probation or parole have high ACE scores," Tolson said. "What that means is they've already been struggling with mental health."

Tolson believes people in jails receiving treatment in hostile environments, such as jails can be counter-productive. According to Tolson, mental health check-ins should be done more frequently in schools and work places.

Simmons noted that the department is aware some people may need to be hospitalized sooner than others. She also said that mobile teams are alerted immediately after someone is found incompetent to stand trial, or when a pretrial evaluation is needed, and work to see those individuals within 30 days.

In Columbia, the lawyer of a woman accused of killing a University of Missouri student and trying to burn his body filed a motion multiple times to have her committed, with the most recent occurring on Monday.

Emma Adams, 21, was accused of killing Samuel Clemons in January. She was charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action, tampering with evidence and abandoning a corpse. Adams is being held at the Boone County Jail on a $1 million bond.

Adams' lawyer filed a motion requesting a judge to reconsider reports on her mental health, after a judge denied a private doctor's report earlier this year. The judge ordered the evaluation in June, and it was completed this week.

Adams is scheduled for a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Boone County Courthouse.

Article Topic Follows: Court and Trials

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Nia Hinson


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