Mental Health Resources for Inmates

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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, VA (NEWSPLEX) -- According to Region Ten and the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail, the prison system is the number one provider of mental health care in the United States.

ACRJ adds that many times, jail time is the first time some of the inmates have ever been treated for their mental health problems. But this creates a challenge for the jail and community: What happens to these inmates and their care when they are released?

Patrick Henshaw is an inmate at the regional jail.

"I just turned 40, and I've probably been locked-up 21, 22 years," Henshaw said.

He is one of the 15 to 20 percent of inmates at the ACRJ who are getting some sort of psychiatric care.

"I'm epileptic for the first," said Henshaw about his own situation. "And I take Depakote for anxiety."

Henshaw says he is at a jail that can make sure he gets the proper mental health care that he needs.

"Psychiatrists are here on Tuesday and Thursdays, and we have psychiatric nurse practitioners here full time and on a part-time basis," said the director of Mental Health at the ACRJ, Dr. Eugene Simopoulos.

He says the jail has a pretty high level of care when it comes to mental health.

When asked about the care at the jail, Henshaw added, "Here it's pretty smooth on getting the care I need."

Some of the mental health care at the jail includes group therapy sessions that help inmates like Henshaw deal with his anxiety.

"It empowers them to confront that past," said Simopoulos about the therapy.

According to Simopoulos, the therapy helps inmates like Henshaw "confront the triggers that have consistently lead to drug problems and recidivism in the correctional setting."

But the correctional setting is not going to last forever. One of Henshaw's biggest worries is what will happen to him when he is finally released from jail.

"What I'm going to do when I get out. I do stress a little bit," Henshaws said about his release.

It is at this point that Region Ten comes in to play. Jerry Wistein from Region Ten works with former inmates to make sure they have the support they need when they are released.

"They're not sure sometimes if they have housing, if they have a job," Wistein said about some of the challenge inmates will face when they are released. "So obviously, where they are going to go, how they are going to get there. Those become some of their first priorities."

But the biggest challenge for Henshaw will be figuring out how he will pay for his medication.

"I'm nervous about costs and things like that," he said.

Right now, Henshaw takes Depakote, which does not cost him anything while he is behind bars. But when he is released, the medication will cost him more than $400 if he cannot get financial aid.

It is not a unique problem for Henshaw.

"A lot of inmates worry about cost of medication, where they are going to find it," said. Simopoulos.

But according to him, a plan is generally already in place for an inmate on how to get and pay for the meds, even before they are released from jail.

Simopoulos added, "That process stars before they leave."

It is made possible because of the work Region Ten does. The organization has representatives at the jail who will work with Henshaw to make sure he has everything he needs, from a therapist to transportation.

Most importantly, Region Ten will make sure that Henshaw can afford his medication.

When asked about inmates like Henshaw, Wistein says they are evaluated first.

"Once they are assessed and meet criteria, I believe there would be no costs for those psych meds," he said.

But even with the support, leaving jail is still a very difficult transition.

"For me, it's like time stop," Henshaws said about his eventual release. "I mean, I might get older. But everything else has moved on,"

The difficulties of transitioning out of jail can trigger Henshaw's anxiety, which can tempt him to go back to marijuana.

"I smoke it for anxiety," Henshaw said about his past usage. "I am always thinking about the things I have done in the past and what I'm going to do. I guess just the anxiety gets the better of me sometimes."

To make sure that does not happen, Region Ten has a recovery team that will work to keep Henshaw on track.

Wistein describes some of the work the team does.

He said, "If someone misses an appointment, [the recovery team] calls them, lets them know 'hey, you missed your appointment. Do you need recovery support to pick you up? Do you need some help with something? How can we help you get here?'"

But for the treatment on the outside to work, Region Ten says Henshaw has to want to get the treatment. Otherwise, he could end up in jail again.

And that's something, Henshaw does not want anymore.

"I don't plan on coming back in here. That's my outlook on it," he said.

Henshaw will be released from the ACRJ in January 2016. After that, he will most likely go to a half-way house where they will help him stay on top of his medications and therapy.



 
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