Sanpete jail to bring on mental health therapist

MANTI—The Sanpete County Commission has approved an expansion of a state grant to enable the county jail to bring on a full-time mental health therapist.

At a meeting Tuesday, July 20, the commission approved an expansion of what is known as the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) grant from about $130,428 to $239,400.

Currently, the grant provides a residential treatment program to selected inmates inside the Sanpete County Jail and helps fund a county probation officer who works with people arrested on drug-related charges both before and after sentencing.

The agency awarding the grant is the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. “They chose us [to add a therapist to the jail staff] as a pilot program because we’re so successful,” Sheriff Jared Buchanan told the commission.

“I think it’s going to be a really, really good thing to get a mental [health] therapist in our jail. Eighty percent of the inmates coming into the RSAT program…have dual problems, mental health along with addiction.” 

The commission approved a pay rate for the therapist of $29.41 an hour, which Buchanan said would translate to a salary of about $57,000 per year. The county would pay medical and other benefits on top of the salary.

The county is required to provide a 25 percent match for the RSAT grant. Presently, the county is matching the grant with some of its beer tax proceeds and by paying the salaries of Jared Hill, director of the RSAT program, and two other employees who do work for the program.

With the approximately $109,000 addition, which includes pay and benefits for the mental health therapist, the match requirement for the total grant will increase by approximately $27,000.  The commission agreed to use more of the beer tax to help cover that amount.

The grant, originally awarded in 2016, is an outgrowth of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), a measure approved by the Utah Legislature in 2015.

The initiative was designed to reorient the criminal justice system to provide substance abuse and mental health treatment instead of locking people up.

The long-term goals of the program include reducing recidivism, and reducing the need for more prison and jail beds.

In other action related to the jail, the commission approved expenditure of approximately $80,000, mostly for new appliances, including a commercial washer, commercial dishwasher, gas convection oven, heated proofing cabinet and hot water dispenser. Buchanan said the items will replace equipment that is 13 years old.

The commission also approved a change to a longstanding cooperative law enforcement agreement between the county and the U.S. Forest Service.

The regular amount of the grant has been $5,000. The Forest Service is providing a one-time addition of $13,600, bringing the total amount for the coming fiscal year to $18,600. The county will be required to spend half of that amount on equipment and the other half on patrolling.