Criminalizing the mentally ill: A dilemma in Region 8 - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Criminalizing the mentally ill: A dilemma in Region 8

Jessica, Jeffrey and Treyson Scoggin folding Valentines in their kitchen. (Source: KAIT-TV) Jessica, Jeffrey and Treyson Scoggin folding Valentines in their kitchen. (Source: KAIT-TV)
Sheriff Marty Boyd explains that a grant allowed jailers to administer brief screenings. Results indicated many needed mental health treatment and services. (Source: KAIT-TV) Sheriff Marty Boyd explains that a grant allowed jailers to administer brief screenings. Results indicated many needed mental health treatment and services. (Source: KAIT-TV)
First meeting involving community leaders discussing options to create a crisis center for the mentally ill in Craighead County. (Source: KAIT-TV) First meeting involving community leaders discussing options to create a crisis center for the mentally ill in Craighead County. (Source: KAIT-TV)
Jessica and Jeffrey Scoggin in happier days. The pair have been married nearly six years and are struggling to deal with the side effects of mental illness on their family. (Source: Jessica Scoggin) Jessica and Jeffrey Scoggin in happier days. The pair have been married nearly six years and are struggling to deal with the side effects of mental illness on their family. (Source: Jessica Scoggin)
MARMADUKE, AR (KAIT) -

Jeffrey and Jessica Scoggin of Marmaduke are married with two children. The living room in their home is lined with family photos. Smiles abound. There’s not the slightest hint that life might be less than idyllic in the quiet subdivision just off Highway 49.

“Sometimes he just has this blank look on his face and I know,” Jessica said, her face tightening. “I know that I need to watch him today.”

The Scoggins have been married for almost six years. Long enough to know each other well, according to Jessica.

It wasn’t until Jeffrey began having seizures that life began to get really complicated.

“I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, intermittent explosive disorder, PTSD, borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia,” Jeffrey said.

Seizures signaled the beginning of a long line of problems for Jeffrey. He fell face first into a door of the home during one seizure.

In November of last year, he had a car accident. Jeffrey said he had a seizure while driving on Highway 412. His car left the road and struck a tree. But, nothing could compare to what would happen next.

“It was like an alter ego came over me in a sense and the next thing I remember being on the ground with a bullet hole through my shoulder,” Jeffrey said.

He told authorities two men were responsible for the incident and an investigation began; only to have the case point right back at him.

“So you told a lie that day,” I asked.

“Yeah, I did,” Jeffrey answered.

Jeffrey was charged with filing a false police report, a Class C felony and discharging a firearm, a misdemeanor.

“I’m more ashamed because I’ve been seeking treatment for so long,” Jeffrey said. “I was more ashamed of myself than anything.”

If convicted, Jeffrey could face jail time in a system flooded with the mentally ill; but ill-prepared to take care of them.

“Are we at a crisis point?” I asked Sheriff Marty Boyd inside the Craighead County Detention Center.

“I believe we are,” Sheriff Boyd said. “Arkansas is one of the lowest rated for mental health in the country right now.”

Sheriff Boyd voices what has become a concern all across the nation.

Ten times more individuals with serious mental illness are in jails and state prisons; rather than state mental hospitals, according to the National Sheriffs' Association and Treatment Advocacy Center. Jails and prisons have replaced hospitals for the mentally ill.

“We are a facility to deal with criminals,” Sheriff Boyd said. “Unfortunately, we have criminalized mental health problems in Arkansas, because jails are the only answer right now.”

Sheriff Boyd says the situation can be dangerous for his deputies and drains resources away from protecting the public. Instead of patrolling the streets, they often have to drive patients five and six hours away for treatment.

“Unfortunately, we do that almost daily, not weekly anymore,” Sheriff Boyd said.

Ever since a crisis unit located in the George W. Jackson Services Center was shut down--and before the center itself was torn down--there’s been nothing available locally.

“So what the unit provided was an opportunity to get those individuals re-stabilized on their medication; to get them reconnected to treatment,” said Shadun Duncan, director for court-assisted treatment services for Mid-South Health Systems and project director for the Adult Treatment Collaborative and the Craighead County Juvenile Court.

“Funding is a really significant issue when we’re looking at crisis units, because they are somewhat expensive to operate,” Duncan said.

That’s why Sheriff Boyd is appealing to local leaders for solutions after the state backed away from funding for a crisis intervention unit. A meeting just last week focused on alternatives. Sheriff Boyd hopes a building might be secured for such a unit.

In the meantime, Duncan says mental health court, a treatment court, has helped.

“They are monitored, too. People tend to think that if you stay in treatment court, then you get a get-out-of-jail free card,” Duncan said. “It’s not like that. In most cases, the treatment is more intensive than they would be receiving otherwise.”

As for those dealing with mental illness everyday…

“It takes a piece of your manhood away,” Jeffrey said. “You can’t provide for your wife and kids like you’re supposed to. You can’t work. You can’t drive.”

“Do you feel like he’s a threat to himself and others,” I asked.

Jessica doesn’t hesitate with her answer, nodding yes.

“Sometimes I do,” Jessica said. “And that’s when I worry the most. He’s never hurt me. He’s never hurt my kids. But, I fear for him.

Jeffrey Scoggin's case will go to court Friday, Feb. 25.

He said he realizes that his lying was a criminal act and he understands there will be repercussions.

As for those plans for a crisis unit, Sheriff Boyd says more meetings are planned for the future. He believes a crisis unit would be a better use of funding and offer savings to taxpayers than the current arrangement in place.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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