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February 1, 2013

County jail forced to act as mental health institution

MILLEDGEVILLE — Based on Baldwin County Jail population statistics over the last three years, 20 percent had a mental health diagnosis. 

Yearly medication costs are near $87,000 not to mention typical individual transports for inpatient care averaging 462 and 318 total mental health clinic visits since 2010.

Mental health is a mandatory service county governments must provide.

People discharged from the Central State Hospital closures didn’t go far. Some individuals not under the proper treatment or medication schedules commit petty crimes. They end up incarcerated. 

Mentally ill go into the general population classified by offense unless segregated for some significant cases, according to jail administrator Capt. Jeff Petty.

Staff is jail certified for correctional issues not to handle the extra demands these individuals require. 

Nurses do their best to monitor and administer medications. An element of that 20 percent won’t take those meds.

County jail health services administrator Beth Eubanks said most of the mentally ill should be in clinical care. The Powell Building at Central State was the place for these folks.

When a person goes into crisis mode, finding a clinical bed could take several days. Long treatment delays worsen the prognosis.

Petty’s armed transport staff grew from one to five the last three years. Three are assigned solely to mental health. 

County officers handle a load of physician-ordered transports. Trips range from Macon, Dublin, Savannah and Gainesville usually burning up a workday.

Eubanks said River Edge Behavioral Health Center is the jail’s best friend. River Edge provides non-violent individual transport within 50 miles and has Georgia’s first Crisis Service Center (CSC) open all day everyday.

Baldwin’s CSC provides psychiatric and counseling assessment, support and referral services by licensed professionals focused on quick stabilization. If the person still indicates a risk to self or others, the center links to alternative hospital services in line with the individual’s medical coverage.

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