New Mental Health Screening for Inmates Could Change Lives, Anderson Officials Say

Independent Mail

By Nikie Mayo

Workers at the Anderson County Detention Center and Upstate mental health advocates are hoping questions that take eight minutes or less to answer could change — and maybe even save — someone’s life.

Beginning this month, each inmate who comes into the county jail will take part in an immediate mental health screening. The screening focuses on what advocates call “self-reporting.” Each inmate is asked eight questions designed to help determine his or her mental-health needs. The questions cover topics about feelings, physical health and medical attention received, among other things. If the inmate’s answers show a need for mental-health help, the inmate is referred to a professional who can help.

The new screening is the result of Anderson County joining the Stepping Up initiative. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a backer of the initiative, it is an effort to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.

Capt. Bill Vaughn of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, who oversees the jail, said the purpose of the initiative is to “identify, intervene and treat.” He said the goal also is to reduce recidivism.

The Sheriff’s Office held a news conference Friday to announce the implementation of the initiative and the new screening.

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