TOPEKA (KSNT) — The Shawnee County Department of Corrections is asking county leaders to pay for a project they say would help better meet the mental health needs of its inmates.
Shawnee County Department of Corrections Director Brian Cole is approaching the county commissioner this week to propose building a mental health housing unit at the jail.
In 2021 and 2022, Cole says 51 percent of Shawnee County inmates reported experiencing mental health issues. He says that since the prison does not currently have adequate mental health facilities, this proposed unit is critical to the overall health of inmates.
This new unit will focus on concerns such as medications, treatment and group therapy. These services could help prisoners re-enter the community after release. Cole says it’s important to provide inmates with these resources because they’re entitled to treatment just like everyone else.
“There are people who have high-risk needs, and just because they’re in jail doesn’t mean it stops,” Cole said. “We have not only an ethical obligation, but also a legal obligation to provide appropriate care and services.”
Cole estimates this mental health unit could cost the county more than $10 million in the form of undisclosed county bonds. He is also working with state and federal congressional delegations for additional government funding.
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If approved, this project is expected to be completed in approximately two years.