WIUM Tristates Public Radio

"Jail Diversion" Plan Proceeds in SE Iowa

Mar 11, 2014

Two southeast Iowa counties are trying to insure that inmates receive the proper services while incarcerated.

The Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission (SEIRPC) could hire a social worker who would focus specifically on mental illness and substance abuse.

Regional Planner Tracey Lamm says this person would split time between the Lee and Des Moines County Jails.

She says offering this service is crucial because an inmate's well-being can deteriorate rapidly while behind bars if they are dealing with mental illness or substance abuse issues.

"The overall goal of the project is to get those people better treatment than simply being in jail," says Lamm.

Lamm says the social worker would also develop a transitional plan for the inmate's release.  That could include finding property housing and lining up treatment, possibly through the counties.

She says organizers hope this transitional plan will result in these specific individuals not returning to jail.

SEIRPC's Board of Directors could vote on the hiring later this month.  Lamm says having SEIRPC hire the social worker would address jurisdictional issues between the two counties.

She says this project has been in the works for several years now, with the organizing board consisting of government, law enforcement and health care providers and coordinators.

Lamm says this program could grow regionally and state-wide in the future, if it proves to be a success.

She says some long-term goals for Lee & Des Moines Counties include the development of a crisis intervention team or a special holding facility for individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues.