Charleston Co. Sheriff’s Office hopes to expand mental health program with grant

Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 3:47 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2023 at 7:19 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office said they hope to expand their mental health program for inmates, but they can’t do it on their own.

The department is asking for about $115,000 from the Department of Public Safety to fund this expansion plus a 10% match out of their own budget from the Charleston County finance committee.

“We are the largest mental health facility in Charleston County and we really shouldn’t be,” William Malcolm, director of mental health for the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, said.

CCSO’s mental health program is called the Behavioral Health Critical Time Intervention Project.

Malcolm said its purpose is to address current or prior inmates with mental health diagnoses, substance abuse issues and homelessness.

“I don’t think this is really unique to Charleston County,” Malcolm said. “This happens all over the country.”

Malcolm said some data shows 1 in 4 inmates have a diagnosed mental health disorder and he thinks that’s an understatement.

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit that focuses on the treatment of severe mental illness, mentally ill inmates remain in jail longer than those without a mental health disorder because many find it difficult to understand and follow jail rules.

“Providing them with help, providing them with support, reduces crime,” Malcolm said. “...Someone is trying to get them help to address those underlying issues that cause them to commit those crimes in the first place.”

Malcolm said with this grant money, they can add a deputy to assist in at-home and in the field visits to follow-up on previous inmates and purchase licensing software that could track their progress and collect data for future use.

He said they should know sometime between now and October from the Department of Public Safety if they will receive this money.

In addition to this grant, the sheriff’s office is asking for three others as well.

The topics address improvements in homeland security for things like bomb disposals and SWAT team equipment.

Plus, money to go towards reducing crime in rural areas. None of this money is coming out of the council’s budget and only to accept the money from outside organizations.

The Charleston County finance committee discussed all four grants at their meeting Thursday at North Charleston City Hall at 5:00 p.m.