Sunday, June 14, 2015

PA prisons house about 13,000 mentally ill inmates

Approximately 24 percent, or 13,000 inmates, are on the department's mental health roster and about 4,000 inmates of those inmates are "seriously mentally ill," reported the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
"We've made significant advancement over the past 20 months where we believe we're in a position where we have the best prison mental health system in the country," said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel.
Wetzel said the Pa. Department of Corrections has created mental health hospital units around the state, increased staff training on mental health first aide, implemented crisis intervention team training for 500 prison staff members and created a peer-specialist program for inmates.
"We've done a bunch of stuff around mental health," Wetzel said.
The Office of Mental Health Advocate was also created to ensure offenders are getting the treatment they need in and out of prison.
Wetzel said the department is also working on creating halfway houses specifically for mentally ill offenders for when they leave prison. The pilot program would enable prison officials to connect offenders with local county behavioral health experts.
"That's a really exciting pilot," Wetzel said. "I'm hoping that it ends up being a short, successful pilot that we scale statewide."
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