Franklin County Sheriff's Office focuses on mental health; helped more than 400 since January

Since January, the CID unit, partnering with ADAMH and Netcare, has responded to 438 calls. (WBNS)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It's a new way to patrol and the Franklin County Sheriff's Office says it's been a problem for far too long.

"I would suggest since the 1950s, when this problem really started with the closure of mental health hospitals," Sgt. Scott Blacker said.

Sgt. Blacker is with the Community Intervention and Diversion unit, or CID. He says in the last 10 years, the sheriff's office has seen an excessively high number of people in jail who struggle with mental illness.

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"But when you look at that, is that the appropriate place to house somebody who's got mental issues?" Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said.

Baldwin says these inmates were being locked up for crimes like public indecency, trespassing and crimes of survival like stealing food to eat. Before, Baldwin says it was quick and easy to put them in cuffs. Now, a new initiative is changing that mindset.

"What we're finding is it's very, very successful," Baldwin said.

Since January, the CID unit, partnering with ADAMH and Netcare, has responded to 438 calls. Shawn Daniels is one of the Netcare mobile crisis clinicians.

"There are runs that we've been on and there are clients who have been critically ill," she said. "They were psychotic."

Daniels and Deputy Brent McKitrick see the benefit of keeping people out of jail and getting them to mental health treatments.

"It's a great program for the community and for people who might be suffering from these problems," McKitrick said.

And this program is saving taxpayers quite a bit of money.

Sgt. Blacker says if those 438 people had spent a minimum of three days in jail, that would have cost about $30,000. Sheriff Baldwin says out of a 2,000 daily population of inmates, an average of 719 have mental health issues.

"If we only diverted a fourth of them, we should save about a quarter-million dollars a month," Baldwin said.

Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton says this program is worth it. She helped start the Stepping Up initiative in Ohio and says this type of program works.

"It's not all that you have to have new money," she said. "You just stop wasting money with horrible outcomes."

Currently, the Franklin County Sheriff's Office has four deputies on CID who are available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sgt. Blacker says he hopes to soon have a couple of CID deputies on second shift, as well.

ADAMH foots the bill for the Netcare workers.