Ottawa County: 3-county mental health jail study funded

Larry Limpf

News Editor

A grant of $350,000 to fund a feasibility study for a multi-county jail for inmates with mental health issues has been awarded to Ottawa, Sandusky, and Seneca counties.
The grant is part of $11 million in funding from the Ohio Jail Safety and Security Program awarded to county jail projects, including six construction and/or renovation projects.
Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Levorchick said he and Mark Stahl, a county commissioner, began meeting about a year ago with their counterparts from Sandusky and Seneca counties to discuss the needs of inmates with mental health issues.
“Our jails are not equipped to be mental health facilities,” the sheriff said. “This would give us the opportunity to have a facility within the corrections system. It would also help alleviate everyone having to build new jails.”
The current system is strained, Levorchick said.
“You have to understand, we have the Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital in Toledo and they have their forensic beds, which is what they use for competency and related issues. But for emergency admittance and related things, they only have 40 or so beds for 22 counties. And Lucas County is one of those counties so those beds don’t go very far for 22 counties,” the sheriff said. “We’re not looking at people off the street going there for mental health treatment; we’re looking at strictly for our inmates. That way these folks can get the proper treatment they need. Our deputies, who are not mental health professionals, are now dealing with folks with serious mental illness. Right now, I have at least three who should be in a mental health facility and I can’t get them in.”
A contract to hire a firm to conduct the feasibility study could be awarded this summer.
Commissioner Stahl said a multi-county facility could help reduce the jail population.
“If we can do that then maybe we wouldn’t need to build a new jail. We will also have the mental health organizations involved and their input would be important,” he said. “We need to set the parameters of what we want the study to do. The idea we’re putting out is to trying to alleviate the jail population and getting these people help. It would be aimed at less violent offenders.”
The corrections division is the largest division within the sheriff’s office, employing 24 full-time deputies and an administrator. The division operates two jails, the detention facility and a minimum security jail.
The detention facility is a 41- bed facility housing adult men and women charged with or convicted of misdemeanor and/or felony offenses.
The minimum security jail is a 48- bed dormitory style facility.


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