Colorado's mental health backlog has a financial impact on taxpayers

DENVER - There are a growing number of county jail inmates across Colorado that are being diagnosed with having a mental illness. This is alongside a state backlog in mental health and competency evaluations ordered by the court.

The current backlog for a competency evaluation is six to nine months.
              
For sentenced inmates, many of them are serving their time before ever being admitted to the state mental health institute in Pueblo for treatment.

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Denver7 looked into the state budget and found that over two fiscal years, including the most recent, the state has asked for nearly $7 million  to help ease that backlog and free up beds in Pueblo, but Captain Kevin Duffy, who oversees the county jail in Douglas County, says this isn’t a problem that you can simply throw money at.

“To take 2 of $7 million and say we're going to use this for the state across the entire state. In my professional opinion I don't think that'll do anything,” said Captain Duffy. “The county jails have quickly become the state mental institutions for the state of Colorado.”

Duffy says Colorado tax payers are picking up the tab for treatment of these inmates who are being held longer than needed.

“It's a very big burden to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and the Douglas County tax payer, we have four full-time clinicians dealing with the inmates, our numbers are high,” said Duffy.

The state is being sued over the backlog and for that reason, a representative for the Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment for our story.

A federal judge is set to see the case again in March.
 

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