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SLO County Jail made positive changes after inmate's death, mental health group says

By Pam Zweifel

San Luis Obispo County Jail has made improvements in treatment of mentally ill inmates, says NAMI.
San Luis Obispo County Jail has made improvements in treatment of mentally ill inmates, says NAMI. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The recent release of the video of Andrew Holland’s death at the jail in January 2017 is a tragic reminder of the responsibility we all have, be it mental health providers, law enforcement individuals and each of us, to help ensure nothing like this ever happens again. Our community failed this young man and our hearts go out to his family and friends.

Shortly after Andrew’s death last year, Sheriff Ian Parkinson called on the National Alliance on Mental Illness San Luis Obispo County (NAMI SLOCO), along with other community organizations and county offices to meet regularly with him to help identify specific changes needed at the jail and in the community.

The list of improvements that have been put into place as of March 15, 2018, can be found in the document, Fact Sheet Jail/Medical Improvements for Inmates, on the San Luis Obispo County website (www.slocounty.ca.gov).

There is much work left to be done and changes we are suggesting require a substantial increase in financial resources from the county Board of Supervisors. We applaud the recent funding of the position of chief medical officer for the jail, which will help assure that inmates receive the medical and mental health care they require.

We are already seeing increased collaboration among jail, medical and mental health supervisors and staff, which will result in result in better-informed decisions about inmate care and custody. In October, the county signed a resolution adopting the nationwide Stepping Up initiative aimed at reducing the number of people with mental illness in jails. These are steps in the right direction, but we need to do more to truly address the heartbreaking lesson Andrew has given this community.

One in four adults will be affected by a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetimes. People live with mental health challenges every day. With treatment and proper care they can recover and thrive.

NAMI SLOCO is dedicated to improving the quality of life for persons of all ages who are affected by mental illness in our community. We must all step up and work together to create an effective system of compassionate care in our community of which we can all be proud.

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