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Napa County jail plans (copy) (copy)

The Napa County Board of Supervisors is declining to redesign the planned, $128 million replacement jail to include a 32-bed mental health pod, as the grand jury recommended. The jail will be located along  Highway 221 near Syar quarry.  

Napa County won’t follow the county grand jury’s recommendation to consider redesigning the planned, new 304-bed jail to add a 32-bed section devoted solely to mental health therapeutic services.

The county plans to break ground on a $128 million replacement jail along Highway 221 near Syar quarry in 2020 and open it in 2022. The jail is to include a 28-bed section for both mental health and medical cases, not an exclusive mental health unit.

That’s the plan the county will stick with, the county Board of Supervisors decided. It recently approved written answers to the May 13 grand jury report as required by state law.

“The replacement jail will allow for a variety of levels of care and housing options for mentally ill inmates,” the Board of Supervisors reply said.

Napa County’s existing jail is in downtown Napa. A 2007 county study found 59 percent of inmates face mental health disorders or emotional problems. A 2017 state survey found 32 percent of the annual jail population in Napa and Sonoma counties received psychotropic medications.

Waits to transfer severe cases to an appropriate psychiatric health facility so they can receive long-term psychotherapy can be four months or longer. Jail mental health staff told the grand jury that these inmates’ mental conditions often deteriorate in jail, the May 13 grand jury report said.

The grand jury sees solutions in the Napa County’s 2007 Adult Correctional System Master Plan by the Carey Group. This plan recommended the county, when it built a new jail, include a 32-pod mental health section.

Now, with a new jail finally on the horizon, the grand jury discovered only a 28-bed medical/mental health unit is included in the design plans. The grand jury wants more. Consider adding a 32-pod section dedicated to the long-term therapeutic needs of the mentally ill, the grand jury recommended to the county.

The Board of Supervisors in its reply doesn’t directly say, “We disagree with adding a 32-bed section because.....” Instead, the one-page-plus answer begins by recounting planning efforts for a new jail since 2004.

Housing options for mentally ill inmates will include single and shared cells. In addition to mental health services presently provided, interested inmates will be able to participate in cognitive-behavioral-based group therapy.

“Those inmates who are deemed acutely mentally ill will receive psychiatry and medical monitoring consistent with state regulations, policies and best practices in the field of mental health,” the reply said. “The county does not have an acute psychiatric treatment facility for this population.”

Napa County believes it has done its due diligence in planning and designing the replacement jail. That includes incorporating changing needs based on state law changes since the Carey Report, the Board of Supervisors response said.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.