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Inmates to get mental health, addiction treatment

Jackson County will begin offering treatment to inmates and former prisoners suffering from mental health problems and addiction.

A $567,100 federal grant is allowing Jackson County Mental Health, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office and the OnTrack, Inc. addiction treatment organization to launch a Second Chance Re-entry Program.

Inmates with substance abuse and mental health disorders will be identified, assessed and treated while in jail. Release plans with follow-up treatment services will be developed for inmates before they are released back into the community, said County Administrator Danny Jordan.

The goal is to reduce incarceration rates of people with mental health and addiction problems, he said.

The county already offers drug and alcohol treatment to people in jail, Jordan said.

People with both problems are at greater risk of incarceration and homelessness, according to experts on co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Treating both problems at the same time in a coordinated way improves care, according to Jackson County Health and Human Services Addictions Manager Michele Morales.

Experts debate the chicken-and-egg question of whether mental health problems led to substance abuse, or whether substance abuse led to mental health problems in people suffering from both, Morales recently told participants at a joint meeting of the Mental Health Advisory Committee and the Local Alcohol and Drug Planning Committee.

Research does show mental health problems and addiction can lead to similar impairments, she said.

One study of long-term methamphetamine addicts and people with schizophrenia showed they performed similarly on cognitive tests, Morales said.

She said addiction is a brain disease that develops from what is initially voluntary use of drugs and alcohol. Drug and alcohol use eventually become involuntary as people become addicted and suffer extreme withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using.

Oregon ranks high among states for drug use as well as mental illness, Morales said.

Jackson County Commissioner John Rachor said law enforcement personnel are frustrated that they have to deal with people with mental health and addiction problems over and over again.

He said the nation is beginning to recognize that people with both problems need treatment.

"I see the trend changing in our country to meet these needs," Rachor said.

Ultimately, treatment could lead to reduced spending on incarceration, Jordan said.

"The idea is if you can treat people, it will reduce criminal activity," he said.

Treatment could potentially reduce costly psychiatric hospitalization, as well.

The county expects to pay $800,000 to $1 million this fiscal year to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center for mental health services and the care of people taken to the hospital's psychiatric clinic for acute mental health problems.

One day of acute inpatient mental health hospitalization costs the county $990, according to a reimbursement agreement between the hospital and the county.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or by email at valdous@mailtribune.com.