Bridging the Gap: National Alliance on Mental Illness offers classes to inmates

Bridging the Gap

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Right now, there are almost 1,500 inmates crowding into the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility.

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office says 36% are on some type of mental health medication, and those are just the inmates who are diagnosed. Out of that number, about 40 inmates have the most serious mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, and major depressive disorder.

Enough inmates have what’s called co-occurring disorder, where they abuse drugs or alcohol to self-medicate a mental illness, that a weekly program is offered at the detention facility to help.

We spent some time at the facility with Alison Rose Dusch, vice president of NAMI Knoxville.

NAMI, or National Alliance on Mental Illness, offers a weekly class Alison oversees, that runs for two hours, sometimes longer, depending on the need inmates present.

“They not only learn about mental health conditions and medications, and treatment and recovery, they also have the chance to learn a little bit about themselves and we create a safe space for them to feel comfortable divulging,” says Dusch.

KCSO says it spends an average of almost $1,000 a month on mental health medications.

The ultimate goal of this and other re-entry programs is to help inmates get on their feet and into productive lives.

Normally, we interview an inmate in our Bridging the Gap stories, but because this is such a sensitive subject, we were asked to respect their privacy because of where they are in treatment right now.

(Editor’s Note: Watch for Bridging the Gap stories each Monday night at 6.
We will focus on re-entry programs at the detention facility – the largest jail in East Tennessee and will talk with Knox County Sheriff’s Office employees who work directly with inmates to find out how the programs work and how our community can get involved. If your business is hiring former inmates and wants to be featured on our program, email Lori at ltucker@wate.com.)

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