The Bibb County Jail holds 966 inmates, at a cost of over $17 million a year.
At any given time, about one out of ten is mentally ill, and that costs the county about a half million dollars in medicine and care. Bibb Sheriff David Davis says his office must also transport those inmates as far as Rome and Columbus for outside treatment.
He says, "It is a burden on local governments, local taxpayers, and it's not unique to Bibb County. The county jails all throughout Georgia are really the largest mental health hospitals that exist."
Davis says to keep some mentally ill patients out of trouble, Georgia signed a five-year agreement with the Department of Justice in 2010. It includes keeping up with mental hospital standards and integrating their patients into community organizations.
"It's bad to see someone who, they committed a crime, so they have to be here in our jail, but had someone intervened earlier in whatever mental health issue that they have, might have prevented them from crossing the line into criminal activity," he says.
The agreement also called for at least 20 Assertive Community Treatment teams throughout the state. Their duties include general care, consulting, and crisis management.
So far, Georgia has 22 groups that care for over 100 mentally ill patients each around the state but none in Bibb County.
Davis hopes that this year legislators will expand some intervention initiatives to help more mentally ill patients and inmates.