Madison Co. leaders aim to improve mental health in metro jail - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Madison Co. leaders aim to improve mental health in metro jail

(Source: WAFF) (Source: WAFF)

Madison County leaders say mental health inmates are suffering inside the Madison County Jail. They say serving their sentence there will only make their conditions worse.

The county has created a task force, and they've released new data saying more than 200 inmates in the metro jail have a mental health diagnosis. And experts say that's 200 too many.

"Jails were never intended to be treatment centers," said Brian Davis, CEO of Wellstone Behavioral Health.

"They're isolated, they're depressed and hopeless," he said.

Davis said the number of mental health inmates is growing fast, but the jail has limited resources to help them.

He said the problem presents a risk to themselves, the corrections officers and other inmates.

Davis said one in four inmates are diagnosed with some type of mental health issue and are excluded from the general population. As a result, the Madison County Commission has approved a jail diversion task force that's aimed to give the inmates what they need. Davis said this includes,psychiatrists, behavioral health professionals, medication, sobering facilities and detox units.

The kinks to make it happen are still being worked out, but officials say taxpayer money will be well spent.

"Whatever that price is, we believe it'll be a savings in the end," said Davis.

The Madison County Commission has approved the "Stepping up Initiative." The task force is still brand new, but they hope to make some major changes soon.

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