EUGENE, Ore. -- A new report from the Oregon Corrections Department shows that about one-third of inmates in state prisons have mental health issues, which is up about 17 percent over the last 5 years.
Justin Davis with Lane County Public Health said the numbers bring up some unanswered questions on how Oregon handles those incarcerated that suffer from mental illness.
“Is this a product of greater awareness around mental illness? Or is it actually that more people are developing mental illness? And as several research endeavors have pointed out, we don't know,” said Davis.
One thing Davis points out: having a mental health issues could also include things like having depression or anxiety.
Davis said that being in jail could exacerbate a person's mental health issues.
“Within the penitentiary system there are a lot of abnormal stresses on an individual, and it could foster mental illness. It could provide a place for it to grow, so to speak,” said Davis.
Lane County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve French said many offenders don't have medical coverage, and being in jail could be the only time they get help.
“A lot of those offenders are untreated when they're on the outside, so when they come into the jail they are receiving services that are much better than what they have been receiving while they weren't in jail,” said Sgt. French.
The Oregon Corrections report also said that 7 out of 10 inmates have some sort of substance abuse issue.