Law enforcement discusses way to combat mental health crisis

Law enforcement discusses way to combat mental health crisis

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Mental health is a growing problem across the country, and Region 8 is no exception.

Law enforcement from across Region 8 met Thursday at the Craighead County Sheriff's Department to discuss the mental health crisis their departments face.

Sheriffs from Craighead, Poinsett, Cross, Clay, Jackson, Crittenden, Mississippi, Lawrence, and other counties met with police chiefs from Jonesboro and Trumann along with county judges to discuss the possibilities of housing the mentally ill.

Ronnie Baldwin, Executive Director of the Arkansas Sheriffs' Association, spoke along with others to tell Northeast Arkansas law enforcement what a Crisis Intervention Unit could do for their jails.

Arkansas ranks 50 in the Report of America's Healthcare System for Serious Mental Illness from the National Alliance of Mental Illness.

County jails are full, and sheriffs admit many are mentally ill.

The idea is to create intervention units, where those who are mentally ill are housed for treatment instead of in county jails.

Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd said his deputies spend on average 28 hours a week transporting inmates to mental health facilities outside of NEA because there is no facility here that does in-patient care.

"Most of the time that place is in the Little Rock area or maybe even Texarkana," Boyd said. "So it takes up a lot of man power and a lot of time that I have to take people off the streets that's patrolling things like that."

The crisis units would be 16-bed units to serve as a diversion site for individuals with mental illness who otherwise would be incarcerated.

Baldwin explained the biggest hurdle is funding, which is where legislators come in.

Baldwin said it's time to pick up the phone and demand funding from the state to get this done.

Baldwin along with Scott Perkins, Communication Director for the Association of Arkansas Counties, are visiting law enforcement officers across the state to share the proposal.

From what they have seen, they believe a Crisis Intervention Unit will be in an area of Arkansas by 2017.

It's unclear where it will be, but they feel Northeast Arkansas' need is just as great as anywhere else.

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