DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) - Dougherty County Jail Officials say they are seeing an increase in the number of inmates who are mentally ill.
38% of inmates in the Dougherty County Jail have some type of mental illness in which they are being treated for. Officials are making sure that officers are recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental illness and providing the right resources for those inmates.
"I can tell that these percentages are going up over time and I don't know if there's an end in sight," said Colonel John Ostrander, Dougherty County Jail Director.
Dougherty County Jail Director Colonel John Ostrander says the number of mentally ill inmates continues to climb behind these walls.
"I've teased and said that I am actually the defacto director of one of the largest mental health treatment facilities in this part of the state," said Ostrander.
Officers receive additional specialized training to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness.
"It's up to us to determine when we get on scene whether or not the person's behavior is actually criminal or is it a result of their mental health," said Ostrander.
Ostrander says the jail is doing the best they can to treat the mentally ill.
"31% are taking some type of mental health medication," said Ostrander. "The rest are being treated through counseling. Medications don't work for their types of conditions."
Five years ago, the jail established a medical service contract with Phoebe providing care to those inmates.
"They not only provide for the medical treatment of the inmates but they also provide for the psychological and psychiatric treatment of the inmates here," said Ostrander.
Medical Staff is on site 24/7. Ostrander says they're also seeing an increase in mental illness among younger inmates and that it's a growing concern for their office.
"Protecting and serving means more than just chasing and arresting," said Ostrander. "It means trying to meet people where they are, to take care of them, to meet their needs and to treat everybody with dignity."
Colonel Ostrander says once inmates are released from jail they receive follow up treatment with an on-care provider and medication.