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Joplin Partners with Ozark Center to Help Inmates Receive Mental - KOAM TV 7

Joplin Partners with Ozark Center to Help Inmates Receive Mental Health Care

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According to jail officials, close to 40% of the city's inmates have a mental illness, which is about national average.

Joplin City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to establish a "mental health court" for the city.

“It will be a breath of fresh air to be able to provide the city of Joplin with an alternative to inmate placement in the jails, by providing behavioral health services to them on an outpatient basis,” says Ozark Center Executive Director Mary Parrigan.

Officials say it will help some of the nine thousand inmates that walk through the doors of Joplin's jail every year to get the mental health services they need.

Joplin Jail Administrator Shane Dotson says "A lot of our inmate population probably have never been diagnosed or have been cared for as far as mental illness goes. But now through this grant we're going to be able to identify those particular inmates, get them screened, and to see where they're at with their mental illness and if they qualify to get them treatment they've probably never had the opportunity for.”

Dotson says about 90% of inmates reoffend here and he hopes with this new partnership that will help to end this cycle.

“We're hoping that 50% or 60% reduction of inmates that go into the program will no longer recidivate, which means they will not be coming back in the jail for petty charges or larceny, or trespassing,  that they'll be able to be productive citizens in our community,” says Dotson.

The program offers a substitute for jail time and helps misdemeanor offenders find additional housing while receiving mental health care for about a year. 

“This will actually afford them the opportunity to reduce their sentence in jail or maybe alleviate their sentence in jail because they will seek services in lieu of jail time,” says Parrigan.

Jail officials, the Ozark Center, the city prosecutor and a public defender all have to agree before an inmate enters into the “mental health court.” 
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