GRANGEVILLE – The plight of an inmate languishing in the Idaho County Jail for months highlights the critical lack of mental health treatment options on the Camas Prairie.
A group of about 36 county and state officials met Thursday at the Soltman Center in Grangetown to discuss the first steps toward establishing mental health services for Idaho and Lewis counties. A recovery, crisis or outreach center would likely be modeled after those facilities currently operating in Lewiston, Moscow and Orofino.
This future plan, however, does not help an inmate currently being held in the Idaho County Jail. The man was convicted in January at trial for multiple crimes, including attempted strangulation. Shortly after conviction but before sentencing, the inmate suddenly became incapacitated or “catatonic”, meaning he stopped eating, drinking, moving voluntarily, talking and caring. of their personal hygiene duties.
The inmate’s ongoing care, as well as what sheriff officials believe are obstacles from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare in finding a mental health facility where the inmate can be treated, have created what Idaho County Sheriff Doug Ulmer considers a dangerous situation.
“Our job is to protect the community and to protect the people in our prison,” Ulmer said in an interview at his office on Thursday.
“This person needs help. He had a bed (in a mental health facility) to go to in Boise. Health and Welfare did their interview and said he didn’t meet their criteria.
“The roadblocks are put up, in my opinion, by the mental health group of health and well-being and their process. We are not at all organized to deal with his situation. It takes 24 hours a day, seven days a week to verify this person. It’s a constant attraction and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. We keep getting this sleight of hand from Health and Welfare. … This person should not be in our establishment; he should be in the hospital and getting the help he needs.
Michael Wraith, program manager for the Behavioral Health Program for Health and Wellness Regions 1 and 2 at Coeur d’Alene, said he could not comment on specifics of any cases.
Speaking generally about departmental policies, however, Wraith said “there are a lot of nuances that go into every case that comes before us. Medical complications are one of the main problems. … Sometimes if a person is seriously mentally ill, it slows down the process.
Although the Idaho County inmate was evaluated by a licensed psychologist following a court order, Wraith said his department must undergo additional evaluations if there are complications in a case, such as medical problems or a seriously mentally ill person.
This is apparently what happened in the Idaho County case.
Brian Hewson, chief deputy of the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, said that shortly after the inmate’s court-ordered assessment, he contacted the Idaho Department of Corrections in Boise to advise the people there that Idaho County would send the inmate.
“I said (to the person he contacted): ‘We are preparing to load it and we are preparing to transport it to you, as per the court order,'” Hewson said. “He says, ‘Hold on your brakes, it doesn’t work that way. We have the ability not to follow a judge’s order. He said, ‘The judges don’t like it, but that’s the way it is.’ I go, ‘OK, this is new to me, right?’ ”
Hewson continued: “He said, ‘What we need is that we need health and well-being to assess it because we rely on determining health and well-being. be. (The detainee) had already been assessed by doctors, psychologists, but that is not enough.
Two health and welfare workers showed up at the Idaho County jail a few days later, Hewson said, and spent 10 to 15 minutes with the inmate. There was no interaction with him and the workers left and filed a report for the Department of Correction.
“The Department of Correction says he doesn’t meet their criteria because he’s not a dangerous individual,” Hewson said, pointing out the inmate was convicted of attempted strangulation and assault. .
“We have concerns. He’s been convicted, so if he goes to a state hospital with lower security, I’m afraid he’s now a flight risk because he hasn’t been convicted yet. … We had it at St. Joe’s several days. He was assessed and they said he should be hospitalized but they didn’t have a bed for him.
“We don’t know where to turn,” Hewson said. “I have never seen roadblocks like this.”
Wraith said his department tries to have transparent communication with other agencies, but sheriff’s officers said that didn’t happen in this case.
“Our engagement process in general is a complicated system,” Wraith said. “So it’s not something (where) we intentionally create barriers.
“Any patient referred to us is placed in an appropriate facility as soon as possible,” he added.
Ulmer acknowledged that even if a recovery or crisis center was available in Idaho County, it probably wouldn’t have helped in this particular case.
But there are other examples of why Camas Prairie needs spaces for people with behavioral health crises.
“We have people we deal with all the time,” Ulmer said. “How many times does a deputy or a policeman open his wallet to offer lunch to someone who can’t afford it. These people are just wandering around and they are in trouble. They are hungry and they need food (and shelter).
“We work with these people all the time,” Ulmer said. “So if there was a pathway that we could take these people down, to get them some help, that would be huge.”
Hewson added: “There are people wandering around who don’t meet that test of danger to the public or to themselves. And the services that were talked about (in the resource and crisis center meeting), that would work for them if there were contacts that we could call or point them in that direction.
Ulmer said his office supports the idea of a behavioral health resource or crisis center in Idaho County, “but if it comes with the bureaucracy that health and wellness made, we don’t want to be involved.
“We’re trying to help people and it feels like you’re failing miserably because you keep hitting this wall,” the sheriff said. “This person (the inmate) remains in our facility that we are in no way able to deal with. We take care of his needs because we have to, because the people who should be taking care of him don’t. It’s aggravating. »