Florida Attorney General addresses mental health concerns in the criminal justice system
Rising mental health concerns post-Hurricane Michael led Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to host part three of her round table series in Bay County.
"I thought it was important to get up here. I think this is a place doing unique things," said Attorney General Moody. "Sheriff Ford has tried new programs that are working."
Attorney General Moody's four-part series focuses on mental health and Florida's criminal justice system. The first part focused on mental health within law enforcement ranks and the second addressed mental health pre-arrest. Her third stop focused on mental health concerns post-arrest.
Since Hurricane Michael, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford says the county has responded to about 656 mental illness-related calls. Consequently, he has already made his own strides to help change the justice system for the better.
"We have a mental health stabilization unit out of the Bay County Jail. We have three mental health counselors, and we also have a psychiatrist that comes to the jail to evaluate inmates," said Sheriff Ford.
Overcrowding has become an issue in local jails, shining a light on offenders who need a doctor more than a judge. Officers posing the question: What is the best way to treat inmates so they stay out of the system?
"We are hoping to use the ideas we've acquired from sheriffs and police around the state," said Attorney General Moody.
Proposed solutions included more mental health training for officers, customized treatment plans for individual inmates, and a solid discharge plan for offenders upon release.
"The common theme was community partnership and working with entities in your community," said Sheriff Ford.
This discussion is just the beginning for the state. The fourth part of the series is titled Addressing Mental Health in Our Courts. It will be held in Naples; there are no additional details at this time.