Tompkins County
New York

Report or Discussion Item

Mental Health Support Services in the Tompkins County Jail


Department:Tompkins County LegislatureSponsors:
Category:Routine Departmental Activities or StatisticsFunctions:Mental Health

Meeting History

Aug 21, 2017 4:30 PM  Health and Human Services Committee Regular Meeting

Mr. Kruppa explained how the Mental Health Department had a social worker for approximately seven hours a week at the Tompkins County Jail to provide basic assistance for inmates until March 2017. Over the last year during the discussions about the Jail, the Mental Health Department was made aware of the need for additional support services at the Jail. Mr. Kruppa, as an interim change, began to send three social workers, a total of 21 hours weekly, to the Jail to expand the services being provided including inmate screening and deeper evaluations. This interim situation allowed time for planning and creating a stronger response with a long-term focus.

Mr. Kruppa distributed copies of a document entitled NEW Mental Health Department Organization Chart and Tompkins County Jail Mental Health Forensic Services to Committee members that is a proposal and explanation of the vision for the Forensics Mental Health program and is what they are working towards. He stated the Department is proposing two new positions in the 2018 Budget; a forensics social worker at the Jail and a case worker to work on re-entry services.

Mr. Kruppa stated the forensic social worker would be a full-time position stationed at the Jail and would screen every inmate and expand evaluations as a result of those screenings for mental health and substance abuse issues. They would also be able to coordinate any services that may be needed while incarcerated. He said this is not a proposal to open a “clinic” at the Jail, but rather have someone available with clinical skills to provide some support services. Mr. Kruppa stated this would also help coordinate and connect those individuals with services upon their release and due to the limited space at the Jail he will work with any space made available for this position.

Mr. Kruppa said the duties of the caseworker position would be to assist and coordinate transition from the Jail to connection with community services. Those services are not limited to mental health and substance abuse but could include the full scope of needs that the individual may have and are similar to the caseworkers in the Home Health programs. He explained that the idea is that the moment a person enters the jail they would begin discharge planning and work to have them connected with the needed services so they are successful with staying out of jail. The caseworker would spend a portion of their time at the jail but would not need to be stationed there.

Mr. Kruppa stated the positions are not expected to start until January 1st and there is time to work with the necessary community partners for further development of the positions and work out the details.

Ms. Kelles and Mr. Mareane explained that the caseworker position could be the coordinator for the Re-Entry program and the two positions will be brought before the Legislature in the form of over-target requests (OTR) during the 2018 budget process. The proposal will transition from the re-entry approach that has been outsourced the past twelve months through Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) and replace it with an in-house re-entry program that has been described with these positions.

Mr. Mareane stated the County is a complex organization to navigate and by utilizing someone in-house it will assist in making the necessary connections for the individuals involved. He said this is a change in the approach to re-entry to it being done in-house and coordinated through Mental Health.

Ms. Kelles spoke of the funds set aside for the contracted services with CCE in the amount of $80,000 that can be used to offset the $171,000, the total cost of the two positions, and leave the net new County cost of $91,000.

Mr. Kruppa explained that this will also assist the Mental Health Department due to the fact that there will be three social workers with a total of 21 hours a week returning to the clinic to continue ongoing treatment and doing other community-based forensics work.

Ms. Kelles stated there have been forensic services available at the Jail for a number of years and the Jail Study Assessment found that there was not enough. Inmates not being assessed early on is part of the problem with them being in jail longer than they should be. Ms. Kelles spoke of a report from a Kentucky jail that houses 220 inmates and has seven forensic counselors on staff.

Mr. Kruppa stated Sharon McDougal, Deputy Commissioner of Mental Health, has toured the Erie County Holding Center and reviewed their innovative programs. Erie County has been very open and has shared the policies and procedures of their programs.