Routt offers “model” prison behavioral health services
Routt offers “model” prison behavioral health services

At any given time, an average of 20 people are being held at the Routt County Detention Center, with about five times as many men as women.

Many of those detainees or inmates have mental health or substance abuse problems, officials say. However, about 30-40 percent of detainees have chosen to take advantage of reliable jail-based behavioral services, according to Sgt. Joe Boyle, JBBS Project Manager.

“Over the last few years, we’ve really been building this program and trying to offer more services,” said Boyle, 36. “I’m confident that the work we’re doing is making a positive difference.”

These behavioral health services began to expand around 2017, aided by funding through the Colorado Behavioral Health Administration. Currently, inmates can take advantage of options such as substance abuse disorder group therapy, a Bible study, a meditation class, or a virtual visit with a CareMind Health therapist. Inmates have access to Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, the Ruth County Fatherhood Program and GED and college courses through a secure laptop connection to Colorado Mountain College.

“Many of the mental health conditions we see are also related to the individual’s use of alcohol or substances, or to the use or withdrawal of alcohol or drugs that worsens the condition.”

The jail has a contract nurse for 30 hours a week and emergencies on call. Mind Springs Health can provide emergency crisis response and the jail contracts with Craig Thornhill, a licensed addiction counselor in Steamboat Springs. Front Range Clinic is a provider of medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, to fight addiction.

Upon entry to the detention center, individuals are screened for substance use disorder, mental health problems, and risk of suicide using four different assessments. Based on how inmates score on the assessments, Boyle said they may qualify for group substance abuse therapy or drug treatment.

The sergeant explained that the jail has seen people with mental illness – most commonly depression, anxiety and substance use disorder – but also some cases of bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and mood and other psychotic disorders.

When inmates are released from the Routt County Detention Center, they can receive a “go bag” or small backpack with emergency supplies such as socks, gloves, a razor, toothpaste, Narcan, fentanyl test strips and information about support services contact.
Susie Romig/steamer pilot still today

“Many of the mental health conditions that we see are also related to the individual’s alcohol or substance use, or withdrawal from alcohol or drugs, which worsens their condition,” Boyle said.

He began working at the prison in 2009 after serving in the Army National Guard, and believes the inmates at the detention center are a reflection of the community as a whole.

“If something happens in our prisons, it happens in our community,” Boyle said. “We all have our problems and flaws. We are all human and we are all part of this community.”

When Boyle was promoted to jail lieutenant in 2017, his primary focus was to build and improve the jail’s mental health system. He accepted a demotion to sergeant so that the administration would allow him to run the JBBS program.

Becky Huckabee, JBBS program manager of the state’s Behavioral Health Administration, said nearly all county jails have a behavioral health program, but pointed out that Routt’s program is robust for the size of the jail.

“He (Boyle) has actually committed to working really hard for JBBS and offering more services to people in his prison,” Huckabee said. “They are definitely a model program, especially for the size of the prison. They offer some really great services for people in their community.

“Sergeant Boyle does a really fantastic job and he really has his community in mind and he really tries to do the right thing for his community.”

The average length of stay at the Rout County Detention Center is 30 to 90 days. Sometimes when an inmate is released, Boyle makes a list of their sizes and immediate needs and goes on a shopping trip to Walmart or coordinates with LiftUp for supplies for people who need basic things like clean clothes, boots, a sleeping bag and a tent. Boyle can purchase a simple prepaid phone so that the freedmen can contact public services.

He likes to refer people to connections with everything from a case manager at The Health Partnership to sober living homes in the Valley, like Oxford House, which has three homes in Craig, or Travis House and Love Life in Steamboat. Boyle said community support programs help reduce recidivism and the success stories of ex-prisoners are being validated.

One of the most difficult parts of his job, Boyle says, is when inmates refuse to participate in any of the extensive health support services.

“Mental health resources and psychiatric hospitals are limited, so as a community we need to do what we can to help these people be productive members of society,” Boyle said. “Prison is a place where people with mental health problems don’t know how to fit into society and society doesn’t know how to help.

“I don’t care about your background – I still want to help you.”

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *