Tuesday, June 24th, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southwest Washington held a forum for Clark County Sheriff candidates Ed Owens, Shane Gardner, John Graser and Chuck Atkins.

Candidates expressed similar concerns on the outdated intake and screening process used to identify mentally ill inmates at County Jails. The current process “basically turned our jails into a hospital and our correction staff into mental health care givers”, said Atkins.

If elected, John Graser outlined a plan to “take the mentally ill inmates out of the Clark County Jail and put them in a separate facility.” He plans on re-opening a part of the jail work center located on lower river road.

Ed Owens shared about his own journey with mental health, struggling with depression and PTSD after the accidental death of his 3-year-old son. “I remember what it took to get through that…I remember what that feels like, so I have a great deal of empathy.”

All four candidates agreed that CIT, or crisis intervention team training is paramount for the Sheriff’s office. “It’s not the kind of training that only law enforcement people should go through”, said Gardner. “I think it would help you at Christmas dinner better understand some of your family members after going through this training.”

After the event, Dr. Ann Donnelly, President of NAMI SW Washington said, “the level of dialogue and creative thinking was such that this forum should be replayed throughout the U.S. to really address the mental health crisis.”

To view highlights from the forum, view the video above.

For the full video, head over to CVTV: