Published March 10, 2022 in the Rome News-Tribune
After years of waiting on funds to come through and months of construction and shipment delays, the Floyd County Jail finally has a facility to serve people with mental illness who come through the system.
“We have a lot of people in need at our jail and we want to make sure they receive the treatment they need while they’re here,” Sheriff Dave Roberson said at the ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon.
The need for this facility goes back to 2011, when Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital closed and many people with mental health needs were left homeless. Many of these people ended up committing minor crimes, would go through the jail system, get bonded out and repeat the process.
To address the issue, voters approved a $5.2 million earmark in the 2017 SPLOST. As part of that and other SPLOST funding, the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office has been able to completely renovate the jail’s medical wing, which opened this past year, as well as a separate mental health unit.
Construction began in January 2021 and they had originally wanted it to open in the fall of 2021, but after shipping delays and backorders, the jail had to push the opening date back.
According to Roberson, the unit was actually ready to open a few weeks ago, but medical contractor Genesys didn’t start providing services until March 1 and the sheriff wanted them to “get their feet wet” before the facility was officially open.
The unit is made up of four blocks, including one block to serve as a community space where they’ll hold both group and one-on-one therapy sessions. Several local groups will be partnering with the sheriff’s office to provide these services, specifically the Rome chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness and Alcoholics Anonymous.
“We’ve seen a lot of people come and go from the jail and through the system... it’s imperative that we have a good working relationship with our sheriff and we want to be involved with people obtaining wellness, because it’s possible,” Rome NAMI President Bonnie Moore said.
In addition to the services provided in the community area, there will be a block for inmates with severe mental health issues, with six beds for women and six beds for men. Block W9 will house less severe cases, with 15 beds for men.
Block W8 will serve as a “step down” block for inmates coming off the streets high or intoxicated. During the first 24 to 48 hours, jail officers will observe them to see if they have any kind of withdrawals or if they need medical attention.
Floyd County Chair Wright Bagby said it’s spectacular to have this facility, but also sad that Rome and Floyd County need the facility.
“A lot of it was brought about by the closing of Northwest Georgia Regional but a lot of it is also from our society today,” Bagby said. “These people don’t need to be in jail, they need to be helped and I hope this will allow them to be helped.”
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