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Mental health needs for jail prisoners gets new focus

Olympia, WA – A new program by the the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Behavioral Health Administration’s Office of Forensic Mental Health Services will bring additional help to jails.

In a release, they tell KXRO that the new jail technical assistance program provides information and training support to Washington jails when they have someone with mental illness in custody.  

Highlighted areas of support include “pre and post-booking diversion options, screening and access to treatment, guidelines for administration of involuntary medication, continuity of care, use of segregation, release planning, crisis de-escalation” and more.

The new program is said to be partially supported by the Trueblood class action suit Settlement Agreement that will improve access to mental health treatment for people waiting in jail for competency evaluations and restoration services. 

Trueblood, formally known as Trueblood et.al. v DSHS, is a federal court case challenging unconstitutional delays in competency evaluation and restoration services. 

“Our new Jail Technical Assistance Program is a collaborative effort that aims to help all jails in Washington improve the safety and care of defendants in jail who have mental illness,” said Dr. David D. Luxton, Workforce Development Administrator with the Office of Forensic Mental Health Services. “We plan to lead the nation in support to jail staff and others who serve persons with mental illness in the legal system.”

The program is working with Disability Rights Washington, law enforcement agencies, jail mental health staff, peer support specialists and others to establish guidance on mutually agreeable best practices and to develop training.

“Jails in Washington often face the challenge of providing training to their staff with limited resources. We are using technology, such as online and video-based presentations, to make training on essential topics available to jail staff and others in high need areas,” said Erik Knudson, Workforce Development Specialist with the new program.

The program has launched an informational web site, available at www.dshs.wa.gov/bha/jail-technical-assistance-program

The Jail Technical Assistance team of expert consultants and trainers can be contacted via email: [email protected]

For more information about the Trueblood case, please visit the DSHS website or the Disability Rights Washington’s Trueblood site.


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