SANTA BARBARA COUNTY - Santa Barbara County remains under court order to reduce overcrowding in the main jail which Sheriff Bill Brown says has become the county's de-facto mental institution.
A Blue Ribbon Commission on Jail Overcrowding identified areas for improvement in services for inmates that have mental health issues, many of whom are repeat offenders.
"Its probably somewhere on the order of at least a third of the people who are in our jail have some type of mental illness that's a significant factor in their lives", Brown says.
The County Board of Supervisors has approved a new contract with Prison Health Services Incorporated, a private company that's been providing medical treatment for inmates at the jail since 1995.
PHS will now take over mental health services at the jail from the county's department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services.
"This new move will allow us to enhance the level of mental health services that are provided in the jail", Brown says, "and at the same time we're actually going to save some funding."
PHS will bring in additional staff, train deputies at the jail and, for the first time, establish a social worker to act as a discharge planner to oversee the release of inmates with mental health issues from jail, the goal being to increase their chance of succeeding in life on the outside.
"That they have the right type of medication, that they have the right type of therapy and treatment that they have a place to live", Brown says, "if their mental illness is not properly maintained they are going to re-offend."
The move to privatize mental health services at the jail is expected to save cash-strapped Santa Barbara County hundreds of thousands of dollars if its own Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health were to provide the same level of service as PHS.
And while the county employee union laments the loss of county jobs at the jail, Sheriff Brown says privatization could be a solution for local, county and state government struggling to cope with shrinking budgets.
"I think they are going to have to consolidate services work in conjunction with other organizations to deliver those services", Brown says, "and there's a lot of room for public and private partnerships to be able to do that."
The Santa Barbara County Drug Court is already working with private industry in effectively providing counseling and treatment.
Wednesday, June 5 2013 5:40 PM EDT2013-06-05 21:40:27 GMT
Dear Jon - Tina wrote to me and asked, "Dear Jon, who paid for Tibor Karsai's RV, was it taxpayer money?" We went to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department to get some answers. This whole TiborMore >>
Dear Jon - Tina wrote to me and asked, "Dear Jon, who paid for Tibor Karsai's RV, was it taxpayer money?" We went to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department to get some answers. More >>
Wednesday, June 19 2013 12:35 AM EDT2013-06-19 04:35:59 GMT
Photo Courtesy: Cinda Price
LOMPOC, Calif.- A stone pine tree collapsed Tuesday afternoon on the 200 block of South H Street crushing a parked truck. Crews believe strong winds most likely caused the tree to fall. FortunatelyMore >>
LOMPOC, Calif.- A stone pine tree collapsed Tuesday afternoon on the 200 block of South H Street crushing a parked truck.More >>