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Addressing mental health at the Erie County Holding Center

Posted at 6:31 PM, Oct 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-31 18:31:19-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Erie County Sheriff's office was grilled by County lawmakers on their medical protocol after the death of four inmates since July.

Michael Reardon, First Deputy Superintendent-Compliance at the Sheriff's Office, says deaths are difficult to avoid and things that happen in society, like suicides, also happen in jail.

"What we do is regulated by the state, it's by far head and shoulders over any place in the state," said Michael Reardon, First Deputy Superintendent-Compliance at the Sheriff's Office.

He walked through the medical protocol:

  • Women are given a pregnancy test (if positive, she is watched by ECMC)
  • They are questioned about their medical condition
  • They undergo a health screening with a nurse present
  • They are asked about their drug use
  • If yes, they help treat addictions and house them in a separate area
  • If no, inmates are placed in general population

Per Reardon, the suicide guidelines are:

  • An nurse asks inmates a set of questions
  • If the inmate does not pass guidelines, mental health department is called
  • Mental health then does a full evaluation and decides next steps

"We are one of the lead jails in the entire country," said Sheriff Tim Howard.

The Sheriff's office is not to blame for the deaths, according to the Sheriff.

"In this case, it's the county who hasn't provided all the services or at least not the services that are to the satisfaction of the Department of Justice," said Sheriff Howard.

Specifically, it's the county's mental health department that's falling short, per Sheriff Howard.

"Unfortunately, what happened is probably about 3-4 years ago we lost a number of staff...it affected our ability to deliver our services in a timely manner," said Erie County Commissioner of Mental Health Michael Ranney.

Monica Lynch of Buffalo says her brother is one of four deaths at the holding center and that her son (pictured below), who is living with a mental illness, was denied medication while at at the holding center.

"I'm demanding change...nothing is being done. We're going to the Governor and asking that Sheriff Howard is immediately removed," said Lynch.

The next step is to appoint a corrections advisory board, according to legislators.

You can find the DOJ's prison policy here.