Mental health inmates increase - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Mental health inmates increase

Dozens of people with mental health problems are being booked into jail locally.

In the past few years the Potter County Detention Center has seen a 50% increase in the number of mental health inmates.

Sheriff Brian Thomas says, "We're losing funding in the state level, and some of the state hospitals are closing. And we're getting more and more of those people in our care. They really need other services besides being put in jail."

Many of the 150 mental health inmates were not receiving adequate services and became homeless. In turn, about half were arrested with trespassing charges.

María Carrillo is the Mental Health Officer and she counsels and diagnoses the symptoms of these inmates. She says, "We're trying to get them access to different services that are still available in the community. A lot of them aren't organized enough to maintain that contact once they leave here."

In addition, Carrillo says many can't afford medication or housing once they're out of jail. And without financial aid available at programs to get the help they need, they feel more pressure.

So they return to being homeless, are caught trespassing, then arrested again. Carrillo says, "A bad economy, increase in stress. That just kind of feeds into just what mental illness cycles that can happen. People are just becoming more aware of mental illness and they're becoming more likely to seek actual treatment."

There are some area services like the Texas Panhandle Center, J.O. Wyatt Clinic, and Family Support Services that are helping cope with the high demand.

Jessica Abuchaibe, NewsChannel 10.

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