Chesterfield jail focuses on mental health to help inmates

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office recently received a $324,000 state grant renewal to help fund metal health programs for jail inmates. Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard said the mental health services program helps the county address mental health issues that may be the root cause of why an inmate committed the crime for which they were jailed.

"We want to make sure we give the help needed," Sheriff Leonard said. "Whether it’s counseling, psychiatric care, or connecting them with a mental health clinician. We also give prescription drugs to help maintain whatever they need to maintain."

Sheriff Karl Leonard

In addition to the state money, Chesterfield is one of 15 cities/counties nationwide that will split a "several hundred million dollar" federal grant.

Jail Chaplain Tarron Howe, of Goodwill Ministries, said he has seen the positive impact the jail’s mental health program has made in the community.

"Many times a person’s behavior is just a symptom of something greater going on on the inside," Howe said. "My job is to see those underlying issues, despite what they’ve done and to look at them as a human and try to help fix the issues."

Jail Chaplain Tarron Howe

Both Leonard and Howe believe the mental health assistance provided at the Chesterfield County Jail transforming lives.

"It does help to reduce crime, because when they get out they’re not leading a life of crime," Sheriff Leonard said. "It also helps to lower the jail population. Lowering the jail population means a lower cost to taxpayers."

The mental health program at the Chesterfield County Jail started three years ago as a pilot program. The Sheriff said he believed it has helped more than 1,000 inmates.

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