Mon., July 12, 2010 2:17pm (EDT)

Psych Patients Wait For Hospital Beds In Jail
By Noel Brown
Updated: 4 years ago

AUGUSTA, Ga.  —  
As the state faces federal pressure to reform its mental health system many mentally ill inmates are sitting in county jail cells because there isn't enough room in Georgia psychiatric hospitals. (Image courtesy Fillmore Photography)
As the state faces federal pressure to reform its mental health system many mentally ill inmates are sitting in county jail cells because there isn't enough room in Georgia psychiatric hospitals. (Image courtesy Fillmore Photography)
Nearly 200 men and women found incapable of standing trial have been locked in jail cells waiting to be transferred to one of the state’s 7 mental hospitals. That’s because getting a bed can take months.

Major Gene Johnson of the Richmond County jail says having to hold psych patients puts a strain on his department’s budget.

"It costs us 47 dollars a day to keep an inmate and once they’re declared incompetent we can’t turn them in the street we have to wait for a bed space," said Johnson.

Earlier this month talks between Georgia and the Department of Justice broke down when the two couldn’t come to an agreement about changes to the state’s mental health system.

Now federal authorities are asking a judge to force Georgia to make potentially expensive reforms to the system.

The federal lawsuit alleged system wide abuse of patients in violation of their constitutional rights.