Panel on Jail Mental Health Care in Tuscaloosa

Apr 26, 2017

Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy (standing), Dr. Marisa Giggie (L), Circuit Judge W. Bradley Almond (R)

Mental health care in correctional facilities was the subject of a talk in Tuscaloosa yesterday.

Dr. Marisa Giggie, the chief psychiatrist for the Tuscaloosa County Jail, held the panel discussion alongside Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy and Circuit Court Judge Bradley Almond. They talked through the challenges in caring for a growing number of mentally ill inmates in correctional facilities, and new ideas to try and keep those with mental illnesses out of jail in the first place.

Giggie says a county jail is in many ways the worst place for a mentally ill person to be, but sometimes it’s a last resort for treatment.

“This is a revolving door. I’ve actually had people tell me, in the jail, that they purposefully went out and got re-arrested because they couldn’t get in to see a mental health provider in the community, so they could come back and see me in the jail and get medication.”

A new program in Tuscaloosa is trying to change that. Since 2012, the Mental Health Court allows certain offenders with mental illness to plead guilty, undergo a year of supervised treatment, and then have their charges dismissed upon graduation.