The Franklin County commissioners OK’d a contract on Tuesday with a Chicago-based consultant to review suicide-prevention efforts at the county jail and make recommendations for improvements.
Falcon Correctional and Community Services Inc. will be paid $19,470 as part of the effort, which will include an evaluation of mental health intake and observation of inmates and training for 75 to 90 supervisory staffers.
Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said he recently attended a couple of national conferences where increases in jail suicides was a topic of discussion.
“Every jail is experiencing an increase in suicides and attempts, just like every other part of society,” he said. “We think it’s probably the opiate crisis, a lot of it, but you can’t blame everything on that. Without knowing, I just want to make sure we’re on top of it.”
The Dispatch reported in April that there were 13 suicides at the two county jails since 2009, 10 of which occurred at the Downtown jail. There were two inmate suicides at the latter during the first four months of this year.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners agreed to consolidate separate homeland security offices, due in part to the coming retirement of the longtime director of the county department, Kathy Crandall.
The functions of the current Franklin County Department of Homeland Security and Regional Communications will now be handled by Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security, under the memorandum of understanding approved by the commissioners. The two offices play similar roles and have similar names, and it makes sense to combine them, said County Administrator Kenneth Wilson.
“We’ll be able to look at our emergency operations center and know exactly what we need to do, who we need to call,” he said.
Three full-time positions will move from the county office to EMA’s Strawberry Farms facility on the Northeast Side, and the county will transfer about $1.4 million in supplemental spending authority to EMA to support the consolidated operations, Wilson said.