The Daily News Record interviewed Ellen Harrison, Executive Director of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board, about the mental health services in the jail that have now become permanent. Read the article below:
Jail’s Mental Health Program Now Permanent
By NOLAN STOUT Daily News-Record Jan 31, 2017
HARRISONBURG — A mental health pilot program at Rockingham County Jail has
exceeded expectations and is now a permanent service.
Ellen Harrison, executive director of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services
Board, provided an update on the program Monday to the Community Criminal Justice
Board, an advisory panel of city, county, school, law enforcement and court officials.
The CSB started the program in January 2015 to increase the jail’s mental health
resources for inmates. Harrison said the program, in which 648 inmates have been helped
as of December, has moved from pilot status to permanent.
“We didn’t realize we would see that,” she said. “It was extremely successful in terms of
what we were able to accomplish.”
Before starting the program, the CSB, which provides mental health, intellectual disability
and substance abuse services, had a case manager working 10 hours a week and a
nurse practitioner at the jail to help inmates prepare for release.
The agency spent $30,000 in one-time funds to install a clinician for 20 hours a week at
the facility in downtown Harrisonburg. City Council and the Rockingham County Board of
Supervisors later kicked in additional funding to keep the program going.
The clinician joins the nurse practitioner, who works in the jail three hours a week, to
provide treatment for mental illness.
Harrison said the city and county contribute $54,000 annually, which allows the clinician to work 40 hours a week.
“This is our community really investing,” she said, adding the hours increased on Jan. 2.
Harrison said of the 648 inmates treated, 55 percent sought out the treatment. The
numbers were surprising because the agency expected most of the referrals to come from
officers during the intake process.
“We really weren’t sure what the general need was,” she said.
She also said 387 inmates, or 38 percent of those treated, had substance abuse issues.
The clinician helped determine how best to treat the remaining inmates, who had a variety
The program is one of several the CSB runs at the local jail. The agency also partners
with the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office and Woodstock-based Strength In Peers to
identify inmates with substance abuse issues and help them navigate treatment after
Keeping and expanding the mental health program within the jail is “vital,” Harrison said.
“Truly, there are people who are in the jail, just like there are people in our community,
who need additional mental health support to lead a basic life,” she said.
Contact Nolan Stout at 574-6278 or firstname.lastname@example.org