Inmates at the Kittitas County Jail will now have access to in-house behavioral health services provided by Comprehensive Healthcare, thanks to a recent partnership of the two agencies.
Comprehensive Healthcare and Kittitas County Jail have had a working relationship for many years. Recently, the jail proposed an expansion of behavioral health services that includes a contract to allow for a full-time, in-house behavioral health care. This new program will allow an on-site therapist to screen inmates for behavioral health concerns as they enter the jail, offer individual and group therapy services, and coordinate with inmates who are being released to ensure outpatient therapy or follow-up treatment occurs. This person will also assist with medication management, mitigate crisis situations or intercede if an inmate experiences a mental health crisis.
A national study featured in the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare found that, out of 29 drug courts, the jails that included an in-house behavioral health care team significantly reduced drug relapse and criminal behavior, both factors that increase the likelihood of incarceration.
“The primary goal of the program is to help incarcerated individuals reach a higher level of recovery and decrease the likelihood of returning to incarceration,” said David Guyer, the new jail-based therapist filling this position.
Guyer has been working with Comprehensive Healthcare’s jail team at the Yakima County Jail, and prior to that, he was a Designated Crisis Responder (DCR) working with the ride-along DCR program at the Yakima County Sheriff’s office. He has also worked with community outreach teams and in an Evaluation and Treatment facility. Guyer has a Master of Social Work and currently working on a Doctorate in Social Work. His work with the Yakima jail has helped prepare him to apply successful outcomes to the jail program in Kittitas County.
“We are excited to have someone with that level of experience to define our program,” said Steve Panattoni, jail superintendent at the Kittitas County Jail.
This program will also provide jail deputies with training regarding mental health conditions and help with officer safety. According to Panattoni, jail deputies have ready access to inmate training to focus on mental health first aid and suicide prevention, and this program will strengthen their ability to apply that training.
Representatives from Comprehensive Healthcare and the Kittitas County Jail emphasized the importance of humanizing inmates, noting that some face several difficult factors in their lives. According to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, as many as 375,000 people with serious mental illnesses are incarcerated on any given day rather than living in a community or environment with therapeutic settings. As many as 90% of male and female prisoners have significant trauma histories, such as experiencing or witnessing extreme violence.
“From a treatment standpoint, re-humanizing and offering choice, respecting the right to choose with restrictive rights—that is going to be most effective,” said Guyer.
Panattoni adds, “our whole goal is to take full advantage of the time that we have with them to make a difference in their lives while we have the opportunity.”
Also, as part of this program, a medical provider at Comprehensive Healthcare will be prescribing medications like suboxone and working closely with the jail-based therapist. The Kittitas County Health Networks will be providing in-kind Medication for Opioid Use Disorders (MOUD) services, while Kittitas Valley Health, Community Health of Central Washington, as well as others, will provide medical services.
Jodi Daly, Ph.D., President and CEO of Comprehensive Healthcare said, “We look forward to the outcomes of this community partnership and we are grateful to be a part of this. Many thanks to Greg Aubol, Division Director, and to the staff at the jail for working hard to create a program centered around improving lives of incarcerated individuals—and effort that impacts their families and entire communities.”
Family and other community members who have questions regarding this new program can contact Comprehensive Healthcare at (509) 925-9861 or email firstname.lastname@example.org