ELLISVILLE, MS (WDAM) - According to a news release from the Jones County Sheriff's Department, one of the priorities of Sheriff Alex Hodge and the Jones County Sheriff's Department has been to develop a way to protect the mentally ill from being incarcerated.
The alternative is for those citizens to receive the professional help they deserve.
The Mississippi Department of Mental Health has created Crisis Intervention Teams. CITs are the product of a partnership between local law enforcement officers and a variety of agencies, including Community Mental Health Centers, primary health providers and behavioral health professionals. Officers who have received crisis intervention training respond to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis and divert them to an appropriate setting to provide treatment, ensuring individuals are not arrested and taken to jail due to the symptoms of their illness, according to the release.
The Jones County Sheriff's Department is one of a handful of law enforcement agencies in the State that has deputies who have undergone the intense 40 hour curriculum, and taken that first step in this jail diversion program.
Sheriff Hodge said in an issued statement, "When this program is fully implemented, there will be a savings to the taxpayers of Jones County, but also, importantly, a true benefit for those suffering from mental illness as well as their families. There will be a specific point of entry for those special cases where jail is not the appropriate environment."
The first in the Jones County Sheriff's Department to receive the CIT certification are Deputy J.D. Carter, Deputy Brennan Chancellor, Deputy Shannon Koss and Deputy R.H. Stockman, according to the release.
The State of Mississippi has adopted a law where agencies who are certified with CIT training have the authority to take a person who is assessed as having a mental health crisis and put them on a 72 hour old, without charging them with a misdemeanor.
The deputy would take them directly to a mental health facility.