The San Mateo (CA) County Sheriff’s Office is adding and expanding a variety of specialized mental health treatment and education programs to help put jail inmates with mental health issues on a path toward self-sufficiency. Through programs such as medical stabilization and pet therapy within the jail setting, the County hopes to reduce the threat that inmates with mental health conditions may pose to themselves or others, while alleviating the conditions that led to their incarceration.
One such program is the Acute Stabilization Unit (ASU) at Maguire Correctional Facility, a 10-bed unit that focuses on the treatment of inmates who are acutely disabled by psychiatric illness and/or co-occurring substance abuse disorders. Liberty Healthcare manages the ASU and provides 24-hour on-site physician, nursing, and mental health clinicians to the unit, which is equipped to treat inmates with a range of conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Once inmates are stabilized, many of them move to the jail’s Behavioral Health Program instead of returning to administrative segregation. Through its designation as a Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) unit, the ASU is also authorized to admit and treat inmate patients who are under the conditions of involuntary civil commitment.
Before the unit admitted its first patient in October 2018, inmates experiencing psychiatric emergencies were transported to a civilian emergency room to await care, Mark Delucchi, Ph.D., Executive Director of the ASU told The Daily Journal. By providing acute psychiatric stabilization within the jail, the ASU has helped the County offer inmates more immediate treatment without the expense and inconvenience of transporting inmates to local psychiatric hospitals under security coverage.