BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Law enforcement officers from across the state gathered on Wednesday to talk mental health alongside Attorney General Ashley Moody.
Each year, it costs more than $19,000 dollars to house a prison inmate in Florida. One hundred and 25 thousand inmates across the state are dealing with a mental illness. Attorney General Moody is hoping to lower the recidivism rate in non-violent inmates who suffer from a mental illness.
In part three of her Mental Health and Criminal Justice summer series, Moody paid a visit to talk about the mental health of inmates and those awaiting trial.
“In order to protect our communities and make them safer and also to protect the hard earned money of Florida taxpayers to make sure we’re using sources effectively. I knew we could do better on the mental health front,” said Moody.
The conversation, Moody says is important for all to bring up but especially here in Bay County since Hurricane Michael. “You deal with that in any community but here especially and you heard the sheriff who is doing a great job for bay county talked about the result of Hurricane Michael and the pressures that are put on society.”
Sheriff Tommy Ford said, “We’ve responded to about 656 mental illness related calls since the storm. 249 suicide-related calls. Our numbers on actually committed suicides have increased from 8 in the same period to 14.”
Moody says people are stabilized while in custody but the goal of helping people remain in a healthy state has yet to be reached.
“It’s just how we’ve been dealing with it in the community. and that is by using our jails and I don’t think that is responsible for our taxpayers and so we can do better. We will do better and this is just the beginning.”
Part one focused on addressing mental health issues within Florida’s law enforcement ranks. According to BlueHelp.org, 165 active and retired law enforcement officers nationwide committed suicide in 2018. That same year, 163 officers died in the line of duty. For more information about part one of the series, click here.
Part two of the series centered on how to make a difference in reducing recidivism and streamlining costs by coming up with innovative ways to handle persons experiencing a mental health episode prior to arrest. The round table discussion was held in West Palm Beach. For more information about part two of the series, click here.