Mental Health Inmates Overcrowding - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Mental Health Inmates Overcrowding

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KENNEWICK, Wash. - Benton County is taking action to solve the jail overcrowding problem. First they want changes for inmates who also have mental illnesses.

Crowding Benton County Jail with mentally ill inmates is a problem County Commissioner Claude Oliver wants to solve. 297 clients filled the jail in 2005 and 2006.

Thursday, the county called in an acclaimed research team to help officials figure out where to put the put the people who don't belong.

"We're here to come help the group figure out ways to identify what the solutions are and also figure out where the resources are," said Wendy Vogel, Policy Research Associates.    

Policy Research has helped over 100 communities across the country, and county officials hope the team can help them find the gaps in our local system.

"Currently we do not have a place for the law officer to take that individual to mental health center on easy basis. Unfortunately the easiest place of choice is our county jail," said Benton County Commissioner Claude Oliver.   

Oliver said he wants to build a new mental health center near the Vista Field airport. But just because Oliver sees the center as a means to better treat mentally ill inmates, doesn't mean the problem will solve itself overnight.

"The long range picture and plan of building a consolidated facility, I wanted it a year ago and here we are today, but it takes time to work out these issues," Oliver said.  

Oliver said he anticipates it may take three to four months before the county comes up with a solid plan of action.