The Harrison County Detention Center Offers Variety of Mental Health Treatment to Inmates

The Mississippi Department of Corrections wants to improve the quality of care for prisoners who have psychological problems. On Wednesday. the Corrections commissioner along with other state leaders and mental health care professionals will attend a national conference on metal illness in prisons. The staff at the medical ward at the Harrison County Jail say unlike typical medical facilities, the patients' health isn't the first priority.

Health Services Administrator David DeCelle said "Security is a vital concern and can't ever be forgotten. It's probably the number one concern of how you provide care to a detainee in a system. Then closely behind that is taking care of the inmate detainee's medical condition."

According to the medical administrator, about 20 percent of the jail population has some type of psychiatric disorder and. most of the inmates have drug and alcohol problems. The jail has a psychiatrist, a social worker and an alcohol and drug counselor to help inmates, but they say the success of the recovery programs depend on the inmates themselves.

"Some people can be helped, and a lot of people won't be helped because they have these bad addictions to alcohol and drugs," said jail social worker Jerry Strickland. "They have behavior problems that are hard to break."

The medical staff says failing to break behavior problems often means that jail becomes a revolving door for some people. Jail officials say the worse thing that they could do is house the prisoners and ignore their mental problems.

Sheriff George Payne: said "They need counseling especially the drug and alcohol people. We don't need to ignore it. We need to address it and I hope we're doing some good with it."

Doctors in the jail also prescribe and administer medication to mentally ill inmates who need it. b

Danielle Thomas