Marion Co. Sheriff runs the largest mental illness facility in Indianapolis: the jail

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Aug. 27, 2015)-- The Marion County Sheriff houses the largest population of mental illness patients in Indianapolis.

"On any given day, 40 percent of our inmate population is classified as mentally ill," said Col. Louis Dezelan. "Many of those are severly so."

There are approximately 880 offenders with mental illness issues inside the jail, said Dezelan, and most of them for relatively minor crimes.

"There are about 500 inmates in this facility with a bond of $500 or less. In some cases its as low as $250. We routinely have people refuse to pay those bonds for people that are classified as mentally ill because what they say to us is, they don't know where else to put them, there is nowhere else to put them.

"'We know they're in your facility they're safe, they're fed, and they are going to get their medications,' because a lot of the people are here who are classified as mentally ill because they get off of their medications, they act up consistent with that and they're rearrested and brought back in here."

Dezelan said everyday the jail medical staff hands out 700 medications to offenders.

In 2015, the sheriff budgeted $640,000 for prescriptions, $5 million for medical staff and $2.1 million for deputies assigned to deal with mentally ill offenders, meaning $7,740,000 spent on mentally-ill inmates is not being spent on more serious offenders or preventing crime.

"The vast majority of these folks, if they were on proper medication, would not be committing the crime they're committing," said Dezelan.

In two weeks, the sheriff will present his 2016 budget to city county councilors and call on spending a total of $114 million.

Approximately five percent of that budget will go toward treating mentally-ill inmates.

"There are no facilities that are larger than ours that care for the mentally ill," said Dezelan. "If someone wanted to decrease the jail population and get better care for people that are mentally ill, we need to have a mental health facility. A jail is not a place to do that."

The recently proposed and defeated Criminal Justice Center Complex would have included a standalone building to house 30 offenders with chronic health and mental illness issues.

Dezelan said 40 percent of all offenders housed in the Marion County Jail are in need of medical care or hospitalization.