DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – A federal grant will help fund a mental health program at the Durham County Detention Center, officials announced Monday.
The U.S. Department of Justice awarded the Durham County Sheriff’s Office a multi-year grant for more than $228,000.
“This is the largest grant our agency has received in recent years,” said Sheriff Mike Andrews. “It is a proud moment not only for the Sheriff’s Office but also the mental health experts at this facility who provide much-needed care every day.”
The federal funds will help establish the Jail and Mental Health Collaboration Project. That project will be a partnership between the Criminal Justice Resource Center and the Durham County and Sheriff’s Office and will serve as the mental health provider at the jail.
“Limited funding has created gaps in the healthcare system. Those gaps have put county jails like ours on the front line of mental health care,” Andrews said.
The Project will help replace the old screening process and will improve the detention facility’s classification of detainees and improve housing assignments for those with mental illness.
“When you have a large facility and you have to classify your pods based on security and other concerns, then you have a mix and staff has to go in every pod, and it’s very time consuming,” said Gudrun Parmer with the Criminal Justice Resource Center.
The Project will also aim to identify a detainee’s criminogenic risk factors.
The federal grant will also help train detention staff in Mental Health First Aid and Crisis Intervention by establishing on-site training.
The Sheriff’s Office said 7,369 individuals were incarcerated in the Durham County Detention Facility in 2015. Of that number, 20 percent were diagnosed or taking medication for mental illness.
“There’s a need for more detention officers to have the skills to work with detainees who are either in distress, being treated for mental illness, or both,” said Lt. Colonel Natalie Perkins, Detention Services director.
The Durham County Government will provide $55, 205 in matching funds.