June 10, 2022 by No Comments

Brittany Lee from Riverside County Behavioral Health Specialist shared the story of how one client changed. Instead of refusing medication, she had him participate in group therapy sessions and then he started working towards his GED. Lee also supported his fellow inmates. He began to change over the course of her work with him.

Lee said, “Today we had a group and he stated he was feeling happy. He’s feeling like his progress is being made.” “Even though it’s jail, he’s doing these activities for himself to maintain stability so that he doesn’t come back.”

Lee is one the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Behavioral Health Department’s specialists. He’s embedded in Unit 16 of the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility, Banning. Lee and his colleagues work with more than 600 inmates at the facility who have been diagnosed with riverside sheriff inmate locator mental illnesses. It’s part a county-wide program to modify the treatment of care in order to increase successful transitions for mentally ill men into the general community and back to detention.

The Behavioral Healthcare Specialists work to offer the same level and quality of care that they would receive in other institutions. These include the adoption of “day room” which allows inmates to receive both one-on–one and group therapy sessions. As they make progress, they “step up” into other dayrooms that better suit their needs.

The court ordered a cap on the jail population and filed a lawsuit to initiate program implementation. It coincided with the publication by CA Fwd of a Jail Utilization Study.

Aaron Perez (Behavioralial Health Service Supervisor) said, “The 16 programming structure is specialized” and geared toward stabilization. “It’s quite a remarkable thing to have a housing facility that’s focused on the treatment and stabilization of mental illness. Because of this, there are many more groups, special privileges and more time in the day. They are given support to comply with treatment. The goal of the program is to stabilize someone in crisis or someone who is suffering from severe mental illness and get them moved to a lower care level.

The Sheriff’s Department (CORE), a dedicated custody team, has been specially trained in working with the mentally ill. “The Unit 16 deputy cops are consistently chosen to be in that unit.” Perez explained that the deputies in 16 get to meet the guys in 16, and vice versa. “So, when someone is acting out the deputy can say, “Oh that’s so-andso and I know that he sometimes does this and I can reply this way.” So, there’s a greater level of familiarity between deputies as well as inmates.

Yvonne Tran a Behavioral Health Service Supervisor said that working alongside the deputies had changed the culture at the facility. “The amount of fights have decreased, and the number of deputies that have had to resort to force has fallen because they have been able learn to better communicate with clients, and how to manage their mental health. They are not going to use force. Instead, they must try to calm them.

She stated that there have been fewer grievances in recent years and that clients are generally more complimentary about staff members. Ernesto Guerrero is a Clinical Therapist. He said that the culture among clients has also changed. It’s quite cool that they hold study sessions in the morning room. That’s because they are able to use their cell phones, watch TV, and walk around the area. This is a way to see where they are at. It shows their motivation.

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