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MCSO to Be Honored at Annual Heroes in Healthcare Event

Event

UKIAH, CA – When Sheriff Tom Allman’s brother took his own life 10 years ago, he made a promise to his 84-year old mother that he would do everything in his power to help the mentally ill. And every day he says, his mother calls to remind him of this promise, and he tells her every time, “It’s not perfect, but we’re making progress.”

And for the great progress they’ve been making to improve the lives of the mentally ill in the county jail, Sheriff Allman and his team at the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) will be honored at the annual Heroes in Healthcare event sponsored by Ukiah Valley Medical Center (UVMC) and Brutocao Family Vineyards on November 12, 2015.  Every year, heroes are selected by community members to recognize local professionals who have made a significant difference through their work, and through their caring connections within the local community.

Sheriff Allman says it’s an honor for his team to be recognized. But he sees this more as an opportunity to bring awareness to this issue. “Mental health affects everyone, not just the person suffering from it. It affects their families and the community.”

“Twenty percent of our inmates here have some sort of mental health issue. We have those who are truly criminals who have some degree of mental illness and then we have those who commit crimes because of their mental illness. Treating them the same as other inmates can have catastrophic consequences, such as violence, making their mental illness worse or self-harm. We cannot allow that,” he explains.

To address the issue, the Sheriff’s office has put in place an identification program designed to help mental health providers at the jail to assess those with potential mental health problems early on so that they get the right treatment. The medical staff has also implemented a socialization program for mentally-ill inmates where they are given the opportunity to talk about social events, do crafts and other activities. And Sheriff Allman says the program has proven to be beneficial. “It’s a zero-cost program that has helped our inmates tremendously. It’s amazing how giving them an outlet or some semblance of socialization helps them work through their mental illness.”

Another strategy called the “Bridge Program” also helps those inmates that are ready to be released by getting them connected to resources to ensure that the transition from incarceration to mainstream society will be seamless. “Theresa, one of our mental health nurses, will sometimes stay late at night trying to make sure they have everything they need. The goal is to make sure that they don’t end up coming back here.”

Sheriff Allman explains, that his office is often viewed as a “mental health hospital” in Mendocino County. “Due to the fact that there is no hospital in the county. But we do, because these people commit crimes due to their mental illness. There’s not enough help for them. The law says they have to be in jail because they committed a crime. But I think we, as a society have a much bigger responsibility than just putting them in jail,” he explains.

Sheriff Allman says his staff works closely with the hospital to address the issue, since some of the mentally ill either end up in the Emergency Room or the county jail. “We cannot just treat them as a normal inmate or patient. We have to continue to find ways to address their issues and hopefully improve their quality of life so that the cycle stops somewhere.”

As part of this effort, the Sheriff’s office has applied for a grant to build a new facility with more appropriate cells for the mentally ill and will allow them to have a day program that will improve the way they deliver services to mentally ill inmates. Sheriff Allman explains the idea came from another hero that has played a big role in improving the welfare of the mentally ill in the community.

“Dr. Doug Rossoff’s legacy is not his untimely death, several years ago. His legacy is his great service and bringing much-needed compassion and understanding towards the mentally ill. We didn’t realize how much he was doing, until he was gone. We have not come close to filling the hole that he left. But we want to honor him by continuing his great work by improving the quality of life for the mentally ill.”

Sheriff Allman says there is much work to be done. But ultimately his dream is for the mentally-ill in the community to have treatment that gives them the dignity they deserve. “Someday I hope that we can treat mental illness like a broken arm. To be able to identify it, fix it and hopefully they can return to a better quality of life.”

Joining the Sheriff’s office in the list of heroes this year are, Candice Gorbenko, RN; hospitalist and philanthropist Marvin Trotter, MD; cancer specialist Russell Hardy, MD and the Mendocino College Nursing Program.

--  UVMC  --

Ukiah Valley Medical Center is part of Adventist Health, a faith-based, nonprofit integrated health system serving more than 75 communities in California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. Our workforce of 31,000 includes more than 22,350 employees; 4,800 medical staff physicians; and 3,850 volunteers. Founded on Seventh-day Adventist heritage and values, Adventist Health provides compassionate care in 20 hospitals, more than 275 clinics (hospital-based, rural health and physician clinics), 15 home care agencies, seven hospice agencies and four joint-venture retirement centers. Adventist Health ranked #10 in Becker's list of the largest nonprofit hospital systems in the U.S. for 2015.  Visit [Hospital Website] for more information.