Future of local mental health services justice system - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Future of local mental health services justice system

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BENTON COUNTY, WA - There's a need for more support when it comes to mental health issues, especially within our justice system.

Since identifying the issue a few years ago, the goal has been getting people the help they need - and in turn, reducing the jail inmate population. That process has been going on for a couple of years now; a joint effort from county leaders and law enforcement.

After recognizing the need for better mental health facilities, there have been additions to county services. On the planning side of things, local leaders like Commissioner Jerome Delvin are working to find the best long-term fit for mental health and drug and alcohol treatment.

The idea is to have a fully operating facility up and running within the next year and a half.

"[We're] trying to build a mental health facility within the jail or do something different and come up with a plan for the whole community for treatment," Delvin said.

Involved in this is Sheriff Jerry Hatcher, who took reporter Crystal Garcia around the Benton County jail, showing her some changes that are possible now - like transforming old cells, or making safer conditions for inmates who may need the extra attention by separating them from other inmates.

Medical professionals are kept on hand, and a mental health court is in place...with this progress, local leaders are still narrowing in on identifying how to bring more resources to life.

"They will be housed in here, and we need to make sure we have the right facility to do that, to keep them safe, keep our staff safe and do that effectively," Delvin said.

Recently, the county has been working with consultants, looking at what other counties in the state have done - whats worked and what hasn't - to better equip our area resources.

On August 14th, leaders from both Franklin and Benton Counties will meet to discuss the next steps in bringing this mental health facility to life.