One in five.
That’s the number of people currently living with a mental illness in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
If you apply those numbers to Sarpy County, that’s more than 36,000 people dealing with some type of mental health issue, ranging in severity from mild to serious. But there are very few secure treatment facilities available in the area. As a result, people experiencing mental health crises often end up in the county jail, which isn’t designed or equipped to meet their needs.
Sarpy County has already taken a number of steps to address this issue, with the goal of finding treatment for people with mental illnesses, not incarcerating them.
The County is an active partner in Region 6 Behavioral Healthcare, which coordinates a network of mental health and substance abuse providers; and Sarpy County’s Mental Health Diversion and Mental Health Pretrial programs work with people in the criminal justice system to help them find available treatment and resources.
Earlier this year, Sarpy County established a Mental Health Leadership Team to guide a coordinated County-wide response. The team includes representatives from the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office, County Attorney’s Office, County Administration, County Board of Commissioners, Public Defender's Office and Region 6.
Sarpy County recently received an $81,700 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, to help fund this effort. The County will use the funds to provide a social worker to help law enforcement deal with individuals experiencing mental health crises, to help identify gaps in mental health services and to deal with opioid addiction.
In the coming weeks, we’ll provide more information about the County’s efforts to address mental health needs, how mental health issues affect the inmates at the Sarpy County jail, and the need for a mental health facility in the county.
Upcoming information in the “Mental Health in Sarpy County” series
• Oct. 29: Sarpy County’s Mental Health Leadership team works to identify gaps
• Nov. 12: Mental health and the Sarpy County jail, a look at the numbers
• Nov. 26: Addressing the need for a mental health facility in Sarpy County