Silent Screams

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She repeatedly called the jail asking for information about her son, asking for them to get him help. And we were there, we were willing to do whatever it took. They did nothing except beat him and tase him.

The Partridges are suing for excessive use of force, indifference to serious mental illness and failure to provide medical care and treatment. The lawsuit alleges that jail staff used excessive force in handling Ryan while he was actively psychotic. They would tackle, punch and tase him in an effort to get him to cooperate, it says. When he was threatening self harm, they would place him in a restraint chair, and cover his face with a spit sock, a mesh-like head cover used to prevent people from spitting on officers.

Several times he underwent competency evaluations, once being let out on bond, only to be arrested, and taken back to the jail several months later for violating probation.

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Even if he was taking medication at the time of his arrest, he stopped taking it for the most part at the jail, paranoid about what the jail staff was giving him. The lawsuit suggests jail staff could have gotten a court order to force Ryan into taking antipsychotic medications, which could have helped stabilize his mental health. In the days leading up to Dec. Jail staff asked the courts to bump him to the top of a priority list for a bed at the Colorado Mental Health Hospital in Pueblo. According to the lawsuit, jail records show that more than hours later Ryan was still alone in his cell at the jail.

When he refused to cooperate, he was punched and tased, the lawsuit alleges. Boulder County Jail is notoriously overcrowded and understaffed, making resource-intensive inmates like Ryan challenging to manage. However, they all quickly acknowledge the inadequacies of the criminal justice system to take care of mental health needs, while explaining a variety of solutions at both the state and local level that seek to address the issue.

An October report on jail overcrowding by outside consultants found that on average Boulder County Jail sees more than people a day with serious mental health problems. The price is on average 20 percent higher for someone with a mental health issue. Since then, the County has slowly allocated funding for new positions, but staffing is still nowhere near capacity.

Additionally, of the roughly or so deputies who work at the jail, Goetz says only about a third of them have gone through the Crisis Intervention Training CIT , which specifically addresses how to interact with people in a variety of mental health states using live role-playing. The hour trainings are conducted throughout the state with limited space for every law enforcement department. Plus, given staffing concerns, it can be difficult to pull deputies from jail rotation to complete the course. In the mental health unit, the jail had the same two clinician positions since opening in until four years ago, Goetz says.

However, three of the clinician positions are currently open. Others are new, from Boulder County or elsewhere. They can have multiple people on suicide watch and others threatening the safety of jail staff, themselves or other inmates, causing them to be housed in a solitary cell for security reasons.

Six additional [cases], like the ones who came in last night. All of this can make it difficult to find adequate candidates for open mental health positions at the jail. Privacy laws make sharing information between different agencies, facilities, parents and doctors impossible unless the inmate signs off on it. If an inmate is in a severe state, mental health staff can refer the person to a hospital on a mental health hold, which often allows treatment to help their mental health stabilize. But as soon as that occurs, the inmate is sent back to the jail, where they often regress.

What would that take? Statewide mental health resources are lacking as well, with inadequate space in state facilities, which are really the only option for jail and prison inmates. But with a 47 percent increase in requests for competency evaluations from to , critics argue this is far from enough. In Boulder County, the number of orders for competency evaluations has been rising from a low-point of 10 in to 99 last year.

Jail staff says some inmates have been waiting days for a bed to open up in a treatment facility, despite a settlement that requires inmates in Colorado to begin this process within 28 days of the court order. In addition to increased funding, the state is also working on a strategic plan to address mental health in the criminal justice system through a mental health and jail task force, on which Sheriff Pelle sits.

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He also works with a senate subcommittee on the issue as politicians try to find solutions through legislation. Additionally, the strategic plan addresses short term solutions within years that mainly focus on building cross-agency collaboration. The report should be made public by the end of the month, Zarrin says. The EDGE program pairs mental health professionals with patrol officers in the hopes of de-escalating situations that result in law enforcement intervention and diverting people from jail.

The PACE program is a resource for people with serious mental health and substance abuse issues and currently saves the County about 10, days of jail time a year by serving approximately 50 people with habitual tendencies, according to Pelle. Through the department of Health and Human Services, the Jail Based Behavioral Health Services provide resources for inmates with less acute mental health needs, including one on one and group therapy, case management and discharge planning.

In the end, none of these solutions provided Ryan with the necessary treatment to prevent him from severe self-harm.

But the moment was short-lived. Soon someone came over and told the family not to touch each other. Ryan returned to his childhood home in North Boulder in mid-February last year. He continues his mental health treatment, including medication, at MHP. His parents, who have been separated for years, moved back under the same roof to care for their son. Shelley asked Busime to move in six months later to be an additional resource. She says it takes all of them just to make it through each day. Ryan tries to keep himself busy: He works out at the rec center with either Richard or Busime.

He often comes back and lifts weights at home, as well. He gives his family massages on a massage table in the basement. Sometimes he meets up with friends, or goes to a concert downtown with Busime. The two often sit and listen to music together.

The mornings are the most difficult, as Ryan often wakes up with painful muscles spasms around his eye sockets as tears run down his cheeks. Comedy can also provide respite: Ryan has started listening to Dave Chappelle and Seinfeld, while his parents listen to him laughing from upstairs. In general, Ryan is more comfortable in his house than anywhere else. The whole family has had to adjust, as both Shelley and Richard say their friend groups and social lives have drastically diminished.

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