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$250K grant awarded to Marion County Sheriff’s office to assist mentally-ill inmates

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– The Marion County Sheriff’s office received a $250,000 grant from the United States Department of Justice to be used on developing a program for assisting mentally-ill inmates.

The “Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program” will work to reduce the prevalence of those with mental illness and substance abuse disorders in the Marion County Jail.

“Each year about 50,000 people flow through the Marion County jail system; 30 to 40% are mentally ill and 85% have substance abuse disorders,” said Marion County Sheriff John Layton. “Many are dually diagnosed. Often individuals cycle through the justice system repeatedly, in part because they have not become connected to ongoing treatment where they could be better served.”

The jail system is strained to capacity due to an increase in arrests and a 2014 state sentencing reform law that places low-level convicts in local jails rather than state prisons, according to the sheriff’s office.

The program aims to implement strategies for sharing information from mental health assessments starting at arrest and expedite access to mental health services and benefits.

The program team will report to the Criminal Justice Planning Council, made up of leaders of the City/County Council, the Mayor’s Office and Criminal Justice Agencies in Marion County such as the courts, the public defender’s office, the sheriff’s office and the prosecutor’s office.

The team will collect data and assess existing systems for identifying and serving people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders. Starting early in the arrest process, the team will identify, divert, and serve individuals with mental illness, the sheriff’s office said.