Hennepin County Takes Steps to Keep Mental Health Patients Out of Jail

July 25, 2018 10:30 PM

The Hennepin County Board took another step toward solving a serious issue with mentally ill people ending up in jail when they need treatment in mental health facilities instead.

Right now in Hennepin County, like other counties all across the state, there are people sitting in jail who should be receiving treatment in a secure, mental health care facility, but there are not enough available beds in those mental health hospitals.

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RELATED: Waiting List to Provide Treatment for Mentally Ill in Minnesota Keeps Growing

Tuesday night the Hennepin County Board approved spending $200,000 to study the possibility of converting an abandoned county-owned building into a secure mental health facility.

The building has been unused at the county's workhouse site in Plymouth for the past decade and converting it into the type of mental health care facility the board is considering could cost about $13 million.

RELATED: Hennepin County Man Inadvertently Released from State Mental Health Hospital

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek has pushed for a facility like this for years and he told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it could provide an additional 145 beds to treat people diagnosed with severe mental illnesses.

"Right now, anyone diagnosed with a severe mental health condition cannot be charged with a misdemeanor," Stanek said. "But, if they are arrested on a misdemeanor they are brought to jail and sometimes they sit there for months, not charged with a crime, while they wait for a bed to open at a secure mental health facility and that is not fair to them or anyone because they need treatment and they cannot get that in jail."

RELATED: Minnetonka Police Launch Aftercare Program to Tackle Mental Health Crisis

Stanek said he is pleased the County Board is moving toward solving the problem by studying the possibility of a new facility.

"This is long overdue and, like we have said, this will be a secure mental health facility so people get the help they need and it keeps them and the public safe," Stanek said.

RELATED: Forest Lake Rejects Youth Mental Health Facility, Gaining Momentum Elsewhere

NAMI Minnesota Executive Director Sue Abderholden told KSTP her organization is happy to see Hennepin County taking this step toward the new facility, because it helps those in need and will save Hennepin County taxpayers money in the long run as well.

"Frankly, if someone does make it into say the Anoka Regional Treatment Center and they do not need to be there anymore and they cannot be released, the county is paying 100 percent of the costs and it is a lot of money," Abderholden said.

The study must be completed and then the county will hold public hearings on the issues before any final action is taken, which means the new facility renovation might not be completed for another year or two.

Credits

Jay Kolls

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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