Marion Co. Sheriff John Layton to President Donald Trump: Mentally ill a concern to sheriffs

Posted at 11:55 AM, Feb 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-08 17:52:16-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marion County Sheriff John Layton was one of about 12 sheriffs from across the United States to join President Donald Trump at the White House Tuesday for a roundtable discussion.

The executive committee of the National Sheriff's Association was invited to Washington. Layton is the second vice president for the committee.

After introducing himself, Layton discussed needing to find a better place to house mentally ill people in jails.

"One of the main concerns was not just my office as sheriff, but across the nation -- the mentally ill in the jails, and the people that they're being really, for lack of a better term, warehoused in our jails across America because we don't have the facilities necessary to take care of them on the outside," Layton said.

Layton said a lot of mentally ill people end up in jail because "the public or the police officer happens to be mad at them at the time."

The topic of mental illness has been discussed by law enforcement in central Indiana for years.

In 2014, health officials said the Marion County jail was a "revolving door" for people who are mentally ill.

"Unless there's more funding directed toward care of the mentally ill in Marion County, it's not going to get any better," a Marion County Sheriff's Department Col. said at the time. "Unfortunately, the same people keep coming back over and over and over again."

FROM 2014 | Health officials: Marion County Jail a 'revolving door' for mentally ill

Since 2007, new recruits with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department have been put through crisis intervention training, which includes basic guidelines on how to deal with a mental health emergency.

MORE | IMPD says more to be done for mental health issues | IMPD recruits undergo special training on dealing with mental illness

The department went a step further last year, unveiling a new behavioral health unit to help people who need it. 

"They're not there to arrest you," said Linda Linn, a crisis specialist for Midtown Mental Health. "They're there to find out what's the problem, how can we help? How can we get resources together, and we're all working together?"

PREVIOUS | IMPD unveils new behavioral health units

It's not just a problem in Marion County. Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox said mental health was his office's No. 1 problem. 

Officials hope some of these issues will improve when Indiana's new $120 million mental health facility opens in 2018.

"As you heard today, it's heartbreaking to think that 50 percent of inmates incarcerated in Indiana prisons today struggle with either mental health issues or substance abuse issues," then-Gov. Mike Pence said. "The state of Indiana's prisons, sadly, are the largest provider of mental health services in our state. And that's just got to change."

ALSO READ | Pence announces plans for new $120M mental health facility to open in 2018

After discussing the mental health issues, Layton thanked Trump for backing law enforcement.

"We do all feel that, as everyone with a badge knows, that you do have our backs and that we're looking forward to years of harmony and taking care of business with the people we serve," Layton said.

The CEO of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly met with Trump in January. 

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