We’re pleased to see Garfield County Criminal Justice Authority is hiring a full-time mental health professional for the county jail.

Jail Administrator Ben Crooks said this position would provide necessary drug counseling, alcohol counseling and conduct suicide assessments. The mental health professional also could provide needed programming at the facility for drug and alcohol addiction.

The sheriff’s office already is doing critical incident training, which includes de-escalation and mental health. We hope that expands with this new position.

Many inmates suffer from mental health issues, and deputies and jailers are simply not trained to handle these situations. Having a mental health professional on staff will help solve this problem going forward.

Out of 25,000 inmates statewide, nearly 12,000 have a history or currently exhibit symptoms of severe mental illness, according to Oklahoma Department of Corrections estimates.

It’s common for inmates to have mental health issues, and some of them end up incarcerated because of them. Substance abuse often goes hand-in-hand with self-medicating.

Implementing Garfield County Criminal Justice Authority was a good thing. Trustee Anthony Clardy Sr. said he was proud of the authority and Crooks for addressing the need for a mental health professional.

“I am really proud of how the authority and you have handled that,” he told Crooks. “That was big. Northwest Oklahoma could become the standard.”

We hope that’s the case.

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