Dakota County officials plan to build a specialized health unit at the county jail dedicated to improving the mental health and medical care that inmates receive. The facility’s staff would treat physical and mental health issues, as well as substance use disorders. The goal would be to reduce the number of inmate hospital visits, provide a more therapeutic environment and establish a single place where everyone needing care could be treated.
“These aren’t just inmates — we talk patients, patient-centered care,” said Pat Enderlein, commander of the detention services division at the Sheriff’s Office.
“This is absolutely needed. We’re not providing the level of service we feel we could be.”
Studies by the county and an outside consultant over the past two years have confirmed the need for the unit, Dakota County officials said. About 25 percent of inmates have serious health issues that require treatment while at the 263-bed jail in Hastings.
The County Board has approved spending $675,000 to design plans for the unit and has set aside $5 million for its construction.
The total price tag, however, will be $12 million to $14 million, so the county is seeking additional funding, including from the state.
If all goes as planned, the unit would open in late 2024.
The jail has seen a sharp increase in the past few years in the number of inmates with mental health concerns, Enderlein said.
The jail has a medical unit, but inmates with mental health issues are often sent to the intake area, he said, placed in a single or group holding cell or a padded cell. That area was only intended as a “brief stop” before inmates head to the general housing unit but hospitals are often at capacity,
In 2021, the Dakota County jail recorded 275 inmates on suicide watch, 503 on watch for substance withdrawal, 265 on medical watches and 739 on “character watches” — meaning someone needs observation.
(Source: Star Tribune)