How law enforcement is taking steps to help mentally ill inmates

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Mental health issues in the workplace

As mass shootings are becoming more rampant, schools and communities are focused on mental health issues more than ever before.

With the school shooting in Parkland and others, many signs were missed that could have possibly prevented the loss of life that took place. Collier County Sheriff’s Office is taking the necessary steps to make sure nothing like that happens again.

WINK News took a look inside a housing unit at the Collier County jail, where Sheriff Kevin Rambosk says too many times mental health patients end up inside a cell instead of in treatment where they can get the help they need.

MORE: Mental health resources in Southwest Florida

“If we can refer people away from the jail to receive mental health help prior to a criminal act particularly, it will save money, it will save time, and it will make the community safer,” said Rambosk.

The sheriff’s office spent more than 2.5-million dollars last fiscal year towards mentally ill inmates for medical costs and supervision. That amount excludes any food or extra staffing that was often needed.

“At least half the population of the jail or more at any given time is being referred for mental health help,” Rambosk said.

MORE: Mental Health court helps break the cycle of ill patients in and out of jail

The sheriff’s office says that would be even higher if it weren’t for the crisis intervention training, which is an intensive 40-hour course that teaches Collier deputies how to recognize mental illness, and de-escalate confrontations that can lead to arrests.

Sheriff Rambosk also says the community can take part in notifying individuals with sign of mental illness.

“Communities need to be proactive. When you see someone in need of help you need to make contact with those that can help them and that’s exactly why we started the programs we’ve started here,” said Rambosk.

The latest initiative led by Lieutenant Leslie Weidenhammer is CCSO’s Mental Health Bureau.

“The sheriff has taken the initiative for us to concentrate on the individual throughout the process,” says Weidenhammer.

“Here in the jail, letting staff know when they come in what information they have so they’re providing that to them at the jail.”

From the moment deputies interact with them on the street, to their time in jail and then released, wellness checks are performed throughout.

“We have a mental health intervention team a licensed clinical social worker that we have contracted with David Lawrence Center and we will take her and simply knock on the door and say hi how are you doing? We’re just here checking on you and making sure things are going well for you. Is there anything we can help you with?,” said Weidenhammer.

Some of them are diverted to mental health court for treatment rather than jail time. This is a program that Tom Ruggerio credits for helping him turn his life around, after attempting suicide, when his wife passed.

“The combination of that medicine, this program, and the therapy was the exact recipe that I needed. Yup, so it’s just amazing,” said Ruggerio.

For Sheriff Rambosk, preventing the tragedy before it happens is what’s most important.

“Without that we will certainly miss individuals that will cause harm to themselves, others, and communities, and some tragically.”

He also says it is the daily interactions with the school system, David Lawrence Center, and National Alliance of Mental Health in Collier, all working together, that has been critical in tackling these complex issues.







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