Mental health advocates are working to improve services for inmates with mental illness

Mental health advocates are working to improve services for inmates with mental illness

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. – May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Tri-Cities chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness is working to find ways to improve services for inmates with mental illness.

NAMI brought officials from the Benton County Sheriff's Office and DHS as guest speakers at their meeting Tuesday night.

They spoke about improvements the Sheriff's Office has made to their mental health care program, as well as received new ideas from family members who have mentally ill relatives struggling within the judicial system today.

Interim Sheriff Jerry Hatcher says these opportunities to have productive conversations are what drives positive changes within the jail.

"These people have family members that have mental health issues and have been in the criminal justice system,” Hatcher says. “They have been in need of services in the community, so it helps me to feel grounded and understand those concerns. So as I’m making decisions that affect them, I can take that into consideration."

Manager of Out-Patient Services at Lourdes and the leader of the jail mental health program, Gordon Cable says many folks asked great questions, and they were surprised to learn about the new services at the jail.

“Sheriff Hatcher has been integral in being forward thinking and proactive in trying to meet the needs of folks that suffer from behavioral health conditions and that end up incarcerated,” Cable said. “He’s been a great partner with us in trying to find outside the box solutions to our problems.”

Hatcher says the biggest take-away from the discussion was learning about personal hardships from families in the Tri-Cities.

“It helps me realize that while we are doing some great things and commissioners are doing a great job by expanding our mental health capabilities—the community still remains concerned,” Hatcher says. “We need to understand that because the true measurement is how the community feels about a program and we’re trying to make sure we meet their expectations.”

NAMI Tri-Cities hosts discussions on mental health on the first Tuesday of every month.

To learn more about the organization, visit

To learn more about improvements in mental health care at Benton County Jail please read our previous coverage:

RELATED STORY: Leaders looking to Benton County Jail to learn ways to improve mental health care

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