Counties: Too many mentally ill people filling jails

RILEY COUNTY (KSNT) – Three counties in Northeast Kansas have decided to join forces to combat an increasing problem, mental illness.

One in every four people nationwide is diagnosed with mental illness and resources in Kansas to help keep getting cut. Those cuts are starting to affect law enforcement in Riley, Pottawatomie and Geary Counties.

“The individuals who are coming to jail, really shouldn’t be here, they should be in a mental facility,” says Sheriff Tony Wolf with the Geary County Sheriff’s Office.

They’re seeing an increase in inmates with mental health issues who really should be somewhere else. The problem is, there’s nowhere else to send them for treatment.

“There needs to be something more than just out patient community based services,” says Robbin Cole with Pawnee Mental Health Services.

She says that’s because state funding has been reduced and so has the number of available beds at the Osawatomie State Hospital.

Wolf says he has three people in jail right now who should actually be in a mental facility.

“My staff don’t exactly know exactly how to handle those individuals, and my biggest fear is that one of our employees gets hurt or the individual coming in gets hurt,” says Wolf.

It’s an issue Riley County Police are dealing with as well. They’ve decided to work with Pawnee Mental Health Services to increase staff training and awareness.

Sgt. Pat Tiede with the Riley County Police Department says it will help them be “more apt to handle you know folks who are in crisis dealing with mental health issues,” but what’s really needed is more beds for treatment.

So until there is a facility for those with mental disabilities to go to, those with mental health issues will continue to have to come to jail. A task force has been created to find more specifics about how many people need these mental health services, and a plan to get the money and facilities, for improved treatments.


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