Clallam County jail seeks mental health professional

Officials struggle to fill post; many inmates have been diagnosed

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office wants to hire a mental health professional to serve the inmates in the Clallam County jail but has struggled to fill the position.

“We’ve attempted for the last three years to get a mental health professional and [Peninsula Behavioral Health] couldn’t get us one, [Correct Care Solutions] couldn’t get us one, so now we’re attempting to have a county employee that’s a mental health professional,” Clallam County Jail Superintendent Wendy Peterson told commissioners Monday.

“The applications are due today at 4 o’clock and so far we have none.”

The county had contracted previously with PBH and CCS to fill the position, but both organizations were unable to keep the position filled. Among the reasons it has been difficult to fill is low pay and the requirements for the position, officials said.

Peterson requested that the county increase the amount of Chemical Dependency/Mental Health funds dedicated to the position from $96,250 to $118,493.

According to the job application on the county’s website, the position requires a Master’s degree, four years of experience and current licensure in Washington state as a licensed mental health professional, licensed counselor, licensed advanced social worker or licensed independent clinical social worker.

Pay was listed at $69,903.48 to $85,170.56 annually.

Peterson said some people had applied for the position when the county was contracting with CCS, but they were from out of state and did not meet the license requirements for the state.

“I think we’re going to have to leave it open until filled, because currently we have nothing,” Peterson said.

Interim County Administrator Rich Sill said the county recently took a close look at the salary for the position and “brought it up to par.”

Sill said that many of the people who are qualified for the position likely live in more populated areas.

Peterson said the need for a mental health professional in the jail is clear.

Of the 114 inmates in the jail on Aug. 7, 66 were diagnosed with a mental illness.

“Twenty-one of those are willing to accept help and we can’t offer them anything,” Peterson said.

Commissioner Bill Peach questioned if there is any other facility in the county caring for 66 people without a mental health professional.

Commissioner Mark Ozias said the commissioners have held the position that they would like to fund the position.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m more than happy to pursue this path,” Ozias said. “Let’s do whatever we need to do to support that resource.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsula dailynews.com.

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