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Driggers updates County Commission

LaFAYETTE — The case manager for Chambers County’s Stepping Up program updated the Chambers County Commission on Monday on her work to screen the county’s inmates for possible mental illness.

“I screened a total of 94 inmates today,” Jessica Driggers said. “Twenty-four of them were positive for mental health issues and substance abuse. Of that number, 21 had previous contact with mental health agencies.”

Driggers was complimentary of the staff at the county jail.

“They have been amazingly helpful to me in administering this program.”

Stepping Up is a new program in the state. A little more than 20 Alabama counties have such a program, which is fully funded by grants.

Driggers came to Chambers County from East Alabama Mental Health. It’s her job to evaluate the inmates who are being detained in the county jail for possible mental illness. She doesn’t assess the nature of the mental illness, only that an inmate is struggling with it.

Mental illness is a behavioral pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning with anyone who has it. It can be persistent, relapsing and remitting or occur in a single episode. Disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, dementia or schizophrenia are diagnosed by mental health professionals. Studies show that one out of every four people have some kind of mental issue.

Because of state budget cuts in recent years, some individuals suffering from mental illness who formerly would have been sent to a state mental health institution are now being incarcerated in jails.

Chambers County’s Stepping Up program is being funded by a $50,000 grant. Driggers has been in the county since November and has an office in the jail complex.

Driggers told the commissioners on Monday that she’s hopeful she can get a therapy program going with the Chambers County Circle of Care.

“It would be provided for inmates on a sliding scale based on income,” she said. “It would cost $10 to $50 per therapy session and they would have the services of the mental health professionals at the O.D. Alsobrook Counseling Center.”

The therapy sessions would be for the inmates found to have a mental health issue.

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