The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to allow the San Luis Obispo County Jail to administer medication to inmates found to be mentally incompetent, against their will.
The jail’s new chief medical officer, Dr. Christy Mulkerin, said at Tuesday’s hearing that courts and the California Department of State Hospitals are starting to push back when it comes to taking in mentally ill inmates.
"Our hands have been tied in treating these patients ’cause all we can do is wait for them to get a bed, and it’s been taking a long time and they deteriorate while they’re in jail," Dr. Mulkerin said.
"This is one tool that we see as we continue to move forward in addressing issues in our services to mentally ill in the jail," said 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill.
The jail will now have the authority to provide approved medication to inmates even if they are unable to provide consent because of their mental disorder.
This move is part of the sheriff’s office’s implementation of the "Stepping Up" initiative, a national program aimed at reducing the number of mentally ill inmates in jail. It comes more than a year after the death of inmate Andrew Holland who died after being held in a restraint chair at the jail for nearly two days. Sheriff Ian Parkinson has said that the sheriff’s office had no alternative other than to place Holland in restraints because the county mental health facility refused to take him in for treatment and the jail had no legal authority to sedate him.
Holland reportedly suffered from schizophrenia for years. The sheriff said Holland was initially put in the restraint chair because he was repeatedly punching himself in the face.