Region 8 Investigates: No help for the mentally ill

Region 8 Investigates: No help for the mentally ill

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A growing problem across America and right here in Region 8 raises the question: are jails becoming the new asylums?

According to a recent study, there are 10 times more mentally ill people behind bars than in state hospitals.

Region 8 News spoke with both sides of this growing problem: a local law enforcement officer and a mom whose son has been in and out of jails. Both are finding there is no help for the mentally ill.

Kale Redden's trips to the county jail are frequent.

"He's been in there 20, maybe 20 something times," Mary Redden, Kale's mother, told us.

Since 2008, Mary said Kale has been in and out of jail. Recently, it's becoming a more frequent problem.

"Now lately, he's been going maybe every week, every two days, every three days," Mary said.

Kale has been locked up for everything from aggravated assault on a household member to trespassing to indecent exposure.

However, Mary said the problem lies with Kale's mental state. He's schizophrenic.

"I call hospitals, I try to get him in boarding homes," Mary said.

She runs in circles trying to get her son help but when help doesn't come, Kale inevitably winds up back in jail.

"No, it's not the place for him but we have no other choice."

Mary isn't the only one who thinks that.

"In law enforcement, we talk about jails have become a dumping ground almost for the mentally ill," Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd said.

Boyd explained that on a near daily basis, mentally ill people are booked into his county jail and it's not helping anyone.

"We can hold them, but we can't provide any kind of service or treatment to them as far as getting better," Boyd said.

The Craighead County Sheriff's Department has implemented a division of the court system for inmates with mental issues. Detention officers and law enforcement officers are also trained with how to deal with a person with a mental illness. However, that's the extent of the help they can provide.

"Jails are a very short time fix for someone with mental health issues," Boyd said.

Here in Northeast Arkansas, Boyd admitted there is no long-term holding facility for persons with mental illness.

"Mid-South, they're our provider here that the jail uses and they've worked great with us and we have a good relationship," Boyd said. "Unfortunately, there's no place here locally for in-house treatment."

If a person is committed for a mental evaluation, Boyd explained that it's a trip back and forth to Little Rock for his transport officers.

"We've already logged over 90,000 miles this year alone," Boyd said. "That's not all mental patients but it is a large portion of it."

Boyd said multiple state agencies are working to find a solution but so far, they've come up with nothing.

"Unfortunately, it's an overwhelming problem and Arkansas is very limited in the number of places available to take someone with mental illness," Boyd said.

For Mary Redden, it's a frustrating fact.

"I'm just so tired. I've been doing this for years," Mary said.

Shortly after we interviewed Mary Redden, Kale was put back in jail for assault on a household member.

According to the police report, Kale punched his mother in the back and tried to light the carpet on fire.

While there aren't long term holding facilities for persons with mental illness here in Region 8, there are mental health centers. Here is a list of those centers, provided by the Arkansas Department of Human Services:

Copyright 2014 KAIT. All rights reserved.