Ohio Tries To Deal With Mentally Ill In Prisons, Not Relying On Solitary


The largest provider of mental-health services in Ohio is easy to find: Look no farther than the nearest state prison. The Columbus Dispatch says that 10,500 people in Ohio prisons, 1 in 5 inmates, have a diagnosed mental illness. And 1 in 12 has a serious and persistent condition such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. There are 10 times as many mentally ill inmates as there are patients in Ohio's six psychiatric hospitals. The numbers are higher for females: 41 percent of 2,510 inmates at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville are on the mental-health caseload. Terry Russell of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio, said, “These people are generally not in prison because they are criminals. Most people that end up there are the most severely mentally disabled who get into trouble because they are untreated or resistant to treatment. Families many times desert them or don't know how to help. They end up in the street, which puts them in harm's way.”

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spent $41.7 million on mental-health care and medications in 2014 and is projected to spend $49 million this year. That is on top of the $22,836 annual overall cost per inmate. Gary Mohr signed up to run state prisons, not mental-health facilities. He opened residential treatment units at four prisons. Mohr is relaxing the long-standing policy of segregating mentally ill inmates with behavioral problems. He said, “We are coming up with a policy where we do not keep inmates who are mentally ill in long-term isolation. Segregation is our default sanction, but our goal is to ensure that the behavior that got them there doesn't happen again. This is going to be a major reform in Ohio and across the U.S.”

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