Flathead Jail staff say more resources are needed for mentally ill inmates

Posted at 2:42 PM, Jan 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-30 18:09:05-05

KALISPELL – Mental illness can impact anyone, including inmates at the Flathead County Jail, putting strain on already tight resources at the facility.

The Flathead County jail was originally built for 63 inmates, but now houses almost twice that amount, with 110 inmates.​

With increasing inmate numbers comes other challenges. From 2017 to 2018, the number of processed inmates went from 462 to 523.

With this increase, Flathead County Jail Commander Jennifer Root tells us the jail has seen a spike in mentally ill inmates that are being processed.

Root explains that while mentally ill inmates wait to be transferred to a hospital, they are housed at the jail, which only drains resources and puts officers at a higher risk for danger.

“We’ve had two officers assaulted because of inmates with mental illness, and so there are two officer moves. So instead of just one officer moving them to court, or one officer moving them to the shower, it takes two officers, so it’s really a drain on our resources.”

Root tells us that most of the mentally ill inmates need to be kept in single or separate cells depending on the severity of their illness. She says more resources like mental health services or drug treatment are desperately needed to supplement these growing issues.

Reporting by Maren Siu for MTN News