WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Keeping people out of jail for good. That’s one of the goals in Kansas to get inmates the mental health help they need.
An expansion into the Ellis County Jail is already in the works, but in the next five years, the plan is to be in many more counties in Kansas, including Sedgwick, and provide services to kids in the juvenile system.
“Some of our western Kansas jails don’t even have mental health services inside of them,” said Dr. Brittany Brest with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Kansas Justice Involved Project, Project Director.
NAMI Kansas offers services in six county jails in Kansas, and the list keeps growing.
“Have plans for next grant year, starting in October, to expand to Barton County, to Ford County, and up to Wyandotte and Sedgwick County, and then two additional prisons,” said Dr. Brest.
NAMI helps to provide an eight-week program for inmates in prisons and a peer-to-peer program in the jails to offer, in some cases, the first mental health support system inmates have had. A big goal of the five-year plan is services for kids in the system.
“We recognize that we want to start and prevent mental health crisis at a young age because the earlier intervention we have, the more success rate that we have with mental health treatment,” said Dr. Brest.
In Sedgwick County, the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC) is currently down to one licensed master-level social worker instead of their typical four. The Director of the Department of Corrections, Steven Stonehouse, said more resources can’t come fast enough.
“We are in crisis mode. We need more therapists. We need more support for families,” said Stonehouse.
Stonehouse said programs are hesitant to come with restricted funding, but the goal is to attract a wide range of providers to have services for the kids.
“We have we have a lot of services in Sedgwick County, but we obviously need more, and I think more help and support is a great idea and very welcome,” said Stonehouse.
“Being able to implement this into juvenile services will help decrease that anger outburst and eventually decrease the rate of violence that we are seeing in the teenage age group,” said Dr. Brest.
NAMI Kansas hopes to have programs in all 105 counties in Kansas in the next 25 years.