FWHS considers mental health services expansion

The Forest-Warren Human Services Advisory Board discussed on Tuesday an expansion of mental health services available to the local jail population.

In addition, Judy Baker, former co-chair of the ATOD/MH/ID Advisory Board, submitted her letter of resignation, “with reluctance,” which chairman Spencer Duffee read in full at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting.

Baker cited staff at Forest-Warren Human Services, Forest Warren Mental Wellness Association, the Warren County Commissioners, and Systems of Care directors, saying that her “current contract as family consultant with BHARP/Systems of Care will be terminated as of Sept. 30. Funding for my position as family consultant with BHARP/Systems of Care has been requested allocated toward Warren County.”

Baker stated that she challenged the core tenants of the Systems of Care program at the Sept. 12 meeting of the Warren County Commissioners, “especially the development of a family/youth-driven system (accessible map of human services), and development of a trauma-informed system (professional/interagency code of conduct and continuity of care).”

Baker stated in her letter that the findings in the report generated from the Human Services Summit reveals “nothing new, as many items have been deficits for years,” adding that past plans and reports “should have been incorporated.”

Carrie Salapek, of Beacon Light Behavioral Health’s Warren Outpatient Clinic, stated that the clinic will be setting aside one day per month for anyone in the inmate population at the Warren County Jail who may be in need of a psychiatric evaluation to be seen for both an intake and a same-day evaluation at the recovery center in North Warren.

This is not a reduction of services, Salapek stressed, adding that psychiatrists will continue to see inmates on the current regular basis, but that this one additional day each moth represents an opportunity for jail administration to have anyone in acute need to be seen in as timely a manner as possible.

This service will be on an as-needed basis, meaning that if the jail does not have a need any particular month the day can be re-allocated to clinical work, Salapek said, adding that the jail will never be billed for a day that services are not performed. Last year, said Judge Maureen Skerda, a total of around eight inmates wound up needing to receive evaluations during periods of incarceration.

She questioned whether the need was great enough to justify the change in service provision, to which Salapek said that the jail would never be billed for a day in which actual services were not performed, adding that this is only an addition of as-needed services and not a change to the current availability of BLBH psychiatrists to inmates. “The jail can cancel (each month) if needed,” said Salepek.

Skerda stated that even one patient in acute need of mental health evaluation can be “very disruptive” to the entire inmate population, and said that “we are appreciative of everything that can be done.”

The next meeting of the FWHS Advisory Board is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 6.