New behavioral health program offered at local detention center | WJHL

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A new behavioral health program will be offered at the Washington County, Tennessee Detention Center through a partnership with East Tennessee State University (ETSU).

In 2023, a behavioral health intern inside the detention center processed 426 suicide watch assessments, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Tuesday.

“This number alone proves how much we need behavioral health services within the detention center,” Sheriff Sexton said in the release. “Add to that the 217 therapy sessions and 269 sick calls and you will certainly see that the needs we know have existed forever. »

Funding for the trial conducted with the intern, a doctoral student in psychology at ETSU, was provided through a grant already available to ETSU’s Institute for Integrated Behavioral Health.

The Washington County, Tennessee, Sheriff’s Office received approval from the County Commission in February 2024 to use more than $500,000 in Restricted Opioid Settlement funds to hire behavioral health professionals.

The deputies will work alongside a psychiatric nurse practitioner and a social worker to support the new program within the detention center.

The behavioral health program and office will focus on assessing and assisting inmates with mental health care, the sheriff’s office said. The office social worker will help inmates get the services they need once they are released from the detention center.

Sexton thanked ETSU and the county commission for recognizing the problem, saying substance abuse and mental health issues often go hand in hand.

“Often we have groups that want to help address mental health and substance abuse issues in prison, but they are hesitant to actually intervene in the prison environment,” Sexton said in the release. “We are fortunate that this ETSU intern fits well into our current health care infrastructure and does not shy away from treating inmates. Everyone around this first stage has been extremely responsive and we are grateful.