TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Corrections officers are having to learn about mental health, as more inmates bring those issues behind bars.
The Shawnee County Department of Corrections has seen an increase in mental health health cases over the past years, and they have made partnerships in the community to try an stop the revolving door.
“The guy behind the bars said I used to go to the state hospital to get taken care of, and the officer says that’s ironic I used to work at the state hospital,” Major Tim Phelps told the story of a publicized cartoon mocking the state’s closure of several mental health hospitals.
Since the closure of those state hospitals in the 1990’s, people who have mental health issues don’t have the resources to get help.
“That’s all moved into the jail because there’s still no sufficient community based services,” he explained.
Phelps has been studying how jails can find help for inmates, as corrections facilities fill the role of mental health institutions.
“We’ve got to get ahead of the curve of what the courts expect from us when dealing with human beings in crisis. If it’s not a mental health hospital it’s got to be as close to that as we can make it, reasonably and still maintain security,” he said.
The jail has increased its staff, and solidified relationships with Valeo to provide mental health services.
“They come into our facility, both with a substance abuse program they conduct here and they also have their employees coming in and checking on their patients from the outside that have come into our facility. Then we plug into them on the way back out,” he detailed.
Shawnee Co. Corrections also is looking to hire more of its own mental health staff, along with officers, but like many areas, they're having a hard time finding workers.
“Were constantly looking. We’ll train the dickens outta ya and treat your wonderfully. If you want a career, we’d be happy to have ya,” he promoted.
The Shawnee County Jail is 85% staffed.
Phelps says Shawnee County Commissioners support keeping wages competitive so they can find and retain staff.
You can find a list of job openings on the county website, SNCO.US.