By Chris McGuinness
One week after the SLO County Jail experienced its third inmate death of 2017, the SLO County Board of Supervisors received an update on efforts to address growing concerns about the treatment and care of mentally ill individuals at the facility.
Sheriff Ian Parkinson addressed the members of the board at their Dec. 5 regular meeting, presenting them with a detailed list of recommendations developed by two ad-hoc committees created as part of the county’s participation in “Stepping Up,” a national initiative aimed at helping local governments find solutions to keep the mentally ill from cycling in and out of the criminal justice system
“We cannot Band-Aid this issue,” Parkinson told the supervisors. “We need to make significant changes.”
Those possible changes were detailed in a three-page list of recommendations made the county’s Stepping Up planning committee. Those recommendations listed some proposed changes to the jail facility itself, including creating a dedicated detoxification center and a mental health treatment wing.
At the meeting, Parkinson indicated that some of the suggestions were already in progress. The Sheriff’s Office is currently building a new medical facility at the jail, which they expect to complete in May of next year. Once opened, the facility will free up space in the jail’s current medical facility that could be repurposed into a treatment space for mentally ill inmates.
In addition to the Stepping Up recommendations, the county is also awaiting the results of a independent review of behavioral and medical services at the jail by a hired consultant, who is expected to make recommendations in early 2018. The county is also working on a request for proposals to study the possibility and cost of contracting mental and medical health services in the jail in the future.