The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office announced their department is now the first jail in the United States to be accredited for mental health services as well as the first to achieve dual accreditation in mental health and health services from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC).
In a release, Sheriff John Wilcher stated, “Since I was elected Sheriff in 2016, I made mental health a top priority. There has been a steady rise in mental health needs of our inmates and it is our responsibility to be better equipped to handle and help these individuals. While I strongly feel that we are not a jail for the mentally ill and that the mentally ill do not belong in our facility, I still feel it is incumbent upon us to adequately train our staff for their own safety and the safety of other inmates.”
The Sheriff’s Office reports having many challenges over the years due to a large inmate population with mental health needs ranging from serious mental illness all the way to substance abuse disorders.
Wilcher’s statement adds, “While this accreditation does not solve all of our problems as a community, it does provide a blueprint for navigating some of our daily challenges and ensures that we will continue to have the systems in place to meet them head-on,” explained Wilcher.
In order to obtain this accreditation, the Sheriff’s Office has instituted several positive changes including hiring additional mental health staff, including a full-time psychiatrist and additional counselors, enhanced crisis intervention and mental health first-aid training for police and corrections officers, and an improved intake and screening process.