Health officials discuss county jail services

MAYVILLE — More individual inmates in 2018 received mental health and addiction services at the Chautauqua County Jail than in 2017.

Patricia Brinkman, director of mental hygiene in Chautauqua County, and Tamie Gates, county therapist, recently discussed with the County Legislature Public Safety Committee the mental health and chemical dependency services provided at the Chautauqua County Jail.

Brinkman said jail employees are working to identify individuals to have early jail division to get them to court to get them entered into addiction service and mental health programs quicker. She said the officers are being trained to recognize people with addiction services and mental health issues who don’t necessarily belong in prison so they can enter the jail diversion program to get the help they need.

“It’s tweaking the whole system,” she said.

A jail diversion program provides alternatives to incarceration to people who are arrested and jailed as a result of behaviors caused by their mental illness or addiction.

Jail diversion programs can help people who are not be a risk to the public if they were released from jail.

Brinkman said the county Health Department has added a care manager and an addiction and a hygiene specialists to the program.

Gates said sheriff’s deputies at the jail refer people for the program. One way that is being done is through a questionnaire being given to inmates. She said drug and alcohol counselors are involved in referrals as well.

“We’re trying to flag the people who need services,” she said.

Brinkman said the program wouldn’t work without the strong working relationship the county Health Department has with the sheriff’s deputies working at the jail. She said James Quattrone, Chautauqua County sheriff, is working effectively with the mental hygiene office.

“He works well with us. One of our strongest supporters,” she said. “There is constant communication back and forth.”

County Legislator Daniel Pavlock, R-Sinclairville, asked about people repeating the program. Brinkman said that is the case sometimes, but it depends on the person. She said sometimes it takes awhile for some people to break the cycle.

County Legislator Terry Nieble, R-Sheridan, asked why there were more people receiving individual mental health services in 2018, with 1,568 compared to 1,213 in 2017, but than there were fewer group services in 2018 compared to 2017, with 26 group health visits last year and 56 two years ago.

Gates said the reason there are fewer group mental health service visits last year compared to 2017 is because county officials are starting to coordinate with other agencies to provide some of these services. For example, she said the county works with Chautauqua Opportunities on group mental health visits.

As for addiction services visits, in 2018 there were 880 individuals that received helped compared to 846 in 2017. Again, in 2018 group visits for addiction services were down to 52 compared to 98 in 2017.