Local health officials have been stressing the importance of mental health treatment for Will County jail inmates in an effort to curb violent crime.
Dr. Joseph Troiani, the director of behavioral health at the Will County Health Department, said he remembers when the jail had one psychologist and one psychiatrist, both working just eight hours a week. In Illinois, new state funding changed that about 15 years ago, according to a news release.
“It was realized that half of the inmates questioned about previous mental health experiences after they were booked were not telling the truth,” Troiani said in the release. “What we needed was a complete evaluation of every inmate.”
Today, Troiani oversees the county jail’s evaluation work coordinated with Armando Reyes, the county health department’s manager of regulatory compliance.
“We are looking for their mental health needs, including services, medications and counseling, while they are being held and upon their release,” said Erica Quensen-Diez, a corrections medical health professional, in the news release. “In the past they may have had unidentified needs, or perhaps been noncompliant with their prescribed treatment. Getting them access to these services early can certainly help.”
Quensen-Diez added that officials give equal consideration to an inmate’s time in custody and afterward. Inmates first receive assessments for their eligibility for diagnostic treatment for 13 different conditions, such as being bipolar or having schizophrenia.
If inmates do not have violent acts on their records, they could be eligible for the Will County Mental Health Court program. This allows someone to have their felonies erased from their records upon completion of the program, similar to how the Will County Drug Court program works, according to the release.
Officials stressed that giving inmates a proper start upon being released is important. They could be referred to the Will County Health Department Behavioral Health Division, the Will County Community Health Center or other sources for treatment.
“Without this mental health component being part of the Will County ADF routine, there would be the potential for detainees having untreated issues,” Quensen-Diez said in the release. “This could then lead to safety issues both within the ADF facility and for the public upon the detainee’s release.”
For information on the Will County Health Department’s Behavioral Health program, visit willcountyhealth.org/behavioral-health.