The Monroe County sheriff’s office and the county commissioners are hoping that Monroe County’s jail can be included in the expansion of a pilot program that started in five other Indiana counties last year.
The IRACS (Integrated Reentry and Correctional Support) program is designed to give one-on-one support to inmates with mental health and substance use disorders, as soon as they are incarcerated. The goal is to divert them from the system into treatment.
On Wednesday morning, Monroe County board of commissioners president Penny Githens said that the pilot IRACS program has been found to be so successful, that three additional counties will be included starting July 1. Githens said that she had asked the state to include Monroe County as one of the three additional counties.
Githens was speaking at the regular Wednesday meeting of the board of commissioners, responding to an update on the jail from chief deputy sheriff Phil Parker.
During his update, Parker told commissioners that there are 35 inmates at the jail who are considered by the jail’s social workers to be “severely mentally ill.” That’s about 17 percent of the jail’s current population of 204, Parker said.
Parker gave the commissioners a heads up that the sheriff’s office would soon be asking for some time to talk about what can be done now—as opposed to waiting until a new jail facility is constructed—to provide services to those in the jail who are severely mentally ill.
That’s when Githens revealed that she was looking to get Monroe County included in the state’s IRACS program. She told Parker she wanted to try and sit down with him on Friday after touring the jail facility, to talk about Monroe County’s inclusion in IRACS.
The pilot IRACS program started last fall in Blackford, Daviess, Dearborn, Delaware, and Scott County jails. According to Githens, the state’s eventual goal is to expand IRACS to all 92 of Indiana’s counties.
Parker responded by joking that Githens must have somehow seen his notes he was going to use for his remarks that morning.
Parker said the jail needs a substance abuse professional. He said he’s talked to sheriff Ruben Marté and with jail commander Kyle Gibbons about the issue. Within the confines of the Monroe County jail their approach is “completely reactive,” Parker said.
Parker said they want to get to a point where appointments get set with inmates, so that those appointments become a part of their regular routine.
As a part of Parker’s update, he briefed the commissioners on Little 500 weekend, which was April 21–23. When the weekend started, the jail population was 192, Parker said. By the end of the weekend, it had grown to 212, which was not a bad outcome, Parker indicated: “Our jail population only went up by 20 people.”
Parker chalked up the relatively small number of people who were booked into the jail to planning ahead and coordinating with the board of judges and Bloomington police department.
Parker reported that Monroe County circuit court judge Mary Ellen Diekhoff had given some guidance to law enforcement officers on bail and releasing people on their own recognizance, in order to minimize bookings into the jail.
Parker also gave a shout out to Pizza X, which had provided pizza to law enforcement officers who worked the weekend. “I don’t know how many pizzas they sent out, but it was unreal,” Parker said.