Benton County is working to implement mental health services for people who are incarcerated. The initiative also offers alternatives to jail time.
The Step Up initiative addresses mental health issues of people in jails and works with the courts, jail administrators and the families of inmates. Rick Osborn with Benton County says raising awareness is an important strategy to keep people out of jail.
Osborn: "You don't lock somebody up, at least not in Benton County, for being mentally ill or having some of those issues. A lot of times those episodes can create behaviors that cause someone to end up in jail."
A drug court program is also offered as an alternative to jail time. The Benton County Sheriff's office uses the Sequential Intercept Model which identifies mental illness needs and helps people transition back into the community. Osborn says the current jail only has 40 beds and limits their ability to offer some of the programs.