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How a local jail's handling a mental health crisis

Plus: Penn State students, community question police response to protest of Proud Boys founder


October 27, 2022
Inside this edition: Warden says Centre County jail has plenty of mental health resources, Penn State students protest Proud Boys, and Wolf and Pa. lawmakers look to push through massive tax incentives for natural gas.
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Handling a Crisis

To better understand the growing mental health crisis in Pennsylvania jails, Spotlight PA and the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism sent a survey to every facility in the state asking officials there to describe the resources they provide to people behind bars. 

Warden Christopher Schell of the Centre County Correctional Facility was one of the first people to respond — and gave one of the most positive self-assessments among the 20 jails that filled out the survey.

Schell gave Centre County the highest score – a five out of five – when it came to the jail’s ability to address mental health needs among incarcerated people.

The facility employs a mental health counselor who assists people experiencing a crisis, he said. Through a contractor, the jail brings a mental health clinician on-site for 30 hours a week.

The mental health counselor also supports people who, because of their mental or intellectual condition, cannot participate in any legal proceedings. These people, who state courts have deemed “incompetent” to stand trial, may require specialized treatment before their case can move forward.

The Centre County jail housed three people needing competency treatment when Schell responded to the survey in August. While many other officials described issues with providing care for these vulnerable residents, Schell said Centre County has not faced challenges and gave the facility a four out of five for its ability to meet their needs.

Schell said his staff try to determine what treatment an incarcerated person was receiving before they were arrested. If the individual refuses medication, doesn’t respond to counseling, and their mental condition starts deteriorating, staff take additional steps.

“We will contact the District Attorney's Office or the Public Defender's Office and speak to the attorney that may be overseeing the individuals’ case,” Schell said. “We will explain the situations and request one of the attorneys to request a competency evaluation through the courts.”

Read more about the state of mental health in Pennsylvania jails here.

Danielle Ohl, investigative reporter

🗳️ Election Center
Read our complete coverage, plus key dates, campaign finance data, sample ballots & more at our Election Center 2022 website.

Spotlight on the Issues: Where Mastriano and Shapiro stand on:

Mail ballots, Election Security, & Voting Rights
» Taxes & Business Regulations
» Rural Health Care, Agriculture, & Broadband
» Abortion, Medicaid, & Opioids
» College Funding & Student Debt
» Energy & the Environment
» Crime & Justice
» LGBTQ Rights

More issue analyses will be published in the coming weeks.

A complete listing of Spotlight PA voter guides:

» Your complete guide to voting in the Nov. 8 election
» Everything you need to know about mail ballots
» Your complete guide to the candidates for governor
» How to vet the candidates on your midterm ballot
» No constitutional amendments on the ballot, but big ones loom
» How to serve as a poll worker on Nov. 8
» These Pa. voters haven't missed a Nov. election for 50+ years
» How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania's 2022 election

En Español:

» Una guía básica para investigar a los candidatos
» Cómo trabajar como trabajador electoral el 8 de noviembre
» Todo lo que necesita saber para votar por correo
» Su guía completa de los candidatos a gobernador
» Una guía completa para las elecciones del 8 de noviembre

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
📝 More From Spotlight PA
» How redistricting could alter control of the legislature and other changes to watch Nov. 8

» As Nov. 8 election approaches, Wolf and Pa. lawmakers look to push through massive tax incentives for natural gas

» 11 Pennsylvanians on the candidates for governor and US Senate, and why some are still undecided

» Most outside spending on Pa. governor's race has one aim: to defeat Doug Mastriano
📷 Local Gem
John D. shared this photo of a soybean field on a recent October morning in State College. Want to be featured here? Send your best local pics to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org.
📰 In Other News
» Following violence, Penn State pres. defends decision not to cancel Proud Boys founder event (Centre Daily Times)

» 'Police just stood there.' Penn State students, community question response over protests. (Centre Daily Times)

» Penn State police say one arrest made at protest, 'not aware' of any threats ahead of time (StateCollege.com)

» Longtime arts fest director to step down, search underway (StateCollege.com)

» Clearfield County Jail filled to capacity (Clearfield Progress)

» Mandatory reporting was supposed to stop severe child abuse. It punishes poor families instead. (ProPublica)
📅 Events
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» Oct. 27: The Palmer Museum of Art hosts it annual Halloween Spectacular after hours.

» Oct. 28: Bellefonte shop Smith + Front hosts a "Friday in the Fonte" pop-up event.

» Oct. 28: The Altoona Symphony Orchestra performs music from Alfred Hitchcock favorites, paired with classic Halloween films.

» Oct. 29: Autumn activities abound at Talleyrand Fall Fest and Annual Halloween Parade in Bellefonte.

» Oct. 31-Nov. 6: The fourth annual Centre Film Festival will showcase more than 50 award-winning films at The State Theatre in State College and Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg.
🧩 The Puzzler
An anagram is a word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another. For example, "spotlight" also forms "stoplight."

Decode the anagram and send your answer to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA State College swag.

Good luck!

Last week's answer: Potion

Congrats to Gordon F., who will receive Spotlight PA State College swag. Others who answered correctly: Donna D., Tish M., Thomas S., Jay G., Warren D., and Kathy H.
Do you have events, community shoutouts, questions about our region, or tips on stories that we should pursue? Email our team.
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