Nassau County Sheriff’s Office has a new tool to help inmates dealing with mental health needs

YULEE, Fla. – The Nassau County Sheriff’s Office has hired its first-ever mental health and substance abuse coordinator. Sheriff Bill Leeper tells News4Jax he got the idea from seeing other counties create this position. Leeper says recidivism rates started to go down.

Storm Creel’s work with the Sheriff’s Office started with 911 dispatch.

“I was so excited to be able to make a difference being the voice on the other side of the phone, somebody calls when they need something,” Creel said.

Creel is taking what she’s learned and applying it directly inside the jail. She says a lot of times, mental health issues are brushed off for years until a crime is committed.

“Maybe, if this person had just gotten the attention that they needed, beforehand, it wouldn’t have escalated,” Creel said.

According to the nonprofit, First Step Alliance a staggering 70 percent of inmates re-offend in the first 5 years of release. Creel’s job is to connect inmates who need treatment with the right resources. She says childhood trauma is often a factor.

“A lot of those children are pre-disposed to committing crimes when they’re older. So, I get it, they do commit these crimes themselves, but there should be treatment for their issues,” Creel said.

Creel also helps inmates with basic needs, like clothing and personal hygiene items. Simple things like this can be a big help for inmates as they work to become productive members of society. While this position is still new, Creel plans to expand it and help people on a grander scale.

“We can give housing to these people. We can help them with insurance, whatever they might need, or whatever their families might need, will be able to have a resource,” Creel said.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.