TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik sat down to talk with KGUN9. Out of nowhere, Sheriff Dupnik changed subjects and started to address his concerns about mental health.
"We have people out on the streets that have no business being out on the streets in the conditions they're in. The Pima County Jail is probably the largest psychiatric hospital in this country or in the state perhaps," said Sheriff Dupnik.
Nine on Your Side's Ileana Diaz went to the Pima County Jail and found out Dupnik was right. Out of 110 people booked at the jail everyday, almost half of them have some kind of mental illness, making this jail the one most populated by mentally-ill inmates.
"We see them off their medications, they're highly psychotic and it's a tough population to deal with because they're not in control of their emotions," said Captain Greg Gearhart, who over looks the mental health unit.
But Neal Cash, who heads up the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, says people living with mental illnesses are actually improving in the county. KGUN9 showed him Sheriff Dupnik's interview and got his reaction.
"I think what the Sheriff was looking at was a selective population. I will tell you that now in Tucson we are serving about 30 thousand people and the vast majority of those people are doing quite well," said Neal Cash.
The demand for services is still high and the jail's mental health unit is almost at capacity. This a problem that Captain Greg Gearhart and Sheriff Dupnik both say relies on getting more resources.
"I totally agree with the Sheriff, that if we are going to be treating people that need to be treated, we need to have the resources to meet that demand," said Cash.
And the challenge of enough resources is one that extends beyond Pima County.
Mental Health experts and Pima County Jail employees believe the construction of the new Crisis Recovery center at the Kino hospital could alleviate some space and resource issues. They still think more resources and effort need to be focused on addressing mental illnesses.
Click to view image: 'Pic 1'
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