New mental health service offered at jail


A new service is being initiated at the Muscatine County Jail to help people with mental illness and to hopefully decline the number of mentally ill people in jail.

This is a collaborative effort between the Muscatine County Jail Administrator Matt McCleary, Muscatine County Sheriff Quinn Riess and the Community Services Director Felicia Toppert, Toppert said. They worked on getting funding to address this issue.

Forty percent of the county population is dealing mental health issues, McCleary said.

“When you look at that and think about the number of people in addition that are not on mental health meds when they go into the jail but have mental health issues that number rises exponentially,” Toppert said. “What we talked about was being able to pay for mental health medications that are conceivably not generally prescribed in a jail setting.”

For example, there are injectable drugs for mental health issues that are administered once a month, Toppert said. This is better than trying to give people pills three times a day or expecting them to take the pills three times a day when they’re out of jail.

“When in fact they don’t always have access to them,” Toppert said. “So our goal really was to access folks in the jail.”

There is a social worker that assesses those who are in the county jail as for mental health issues, Toppert said. Once the person is identified as needing medication, ACH will prescribe the medication. ACH works with the county’s jail population already with any medical needs that may come up.

“What we are doing is bringing them (ACH) up into the mental health area as well so we can potentially stop this constant revolution of folks coming in and out of the jail because they have mental health issues and they do a third degree theft because they’re unmedicated and untreated,” Toppert added.

Supervisor Nathan Mather asked Toppert how does ACH come into contact with someone in the jail. Toppert said it’s a tele-health process.

“Because very frankly anybody in the United States would have a hell of a time trying to find a psychiatrist anywhere,” Toppert said.

Supervisor Chairman Scott Sauer asked how this new program would work at the jail.

An inmate comes into the population and the classification process starts, McCleary said. Within 14 days the assessment process starts with a licensed social worker that will make recommendations to see a provider to prescribe medication.

“That’s the normal process,” McCleary said. “If there’s a mental health crisis prior to that then that can be expedited.”

A jail-based coordinator is also contracted through the mental health region, Toppert said. This person’s focus will be paying attention to those leaving the jail that have mental health issues.

“To make sure they have housing and are set up for their appointments and have a mechanism to get to those appointments and those kind of things because that’s where the ball drops,” Toppert said. “That jail-based coordinator will stick with that person for 30 days to make sure they get where they need to go.”

Supervisor Jeff Sorensen asked who would be funding this program. Toppert said the mental health region would be funding it.

Mather asked if this new service would be for everyone or the people who are jailed often that have mental health issues.

“Well, it’s going to deal with everybody in the jail who has a mental health issue regardless of how large or small it might be,” Toppert said.

When a person comes to the jail, they don’t know if the person has medication in their system still but 30 days later they don’t have medication in their system and are released, she added.

“If we can help people in the front end and get them mental health help when that process is so acute – that’s the best way to go about it,” Toppert said. “We can keep people out of jail that way.”

Sorensen asked Toppert if the mental health region approved the funding for this service. Toppert said yes and that it would be funded through the end of this year and all of next year.