The Peoria County Jail is handling fewer inmates on a daily basis, but it doesn’t mean there are fewer problems to handle behind bars.

“We’re averaging between 40 and 60 new arrests every month that will go on some form of withdrawal protocol,” said Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell.

From mental health to addiction, detainees arrive at jail with myriad issues.

“I see anybody who’s had any mental health history, background, current medications,” explained Jennifer Logan, Ph.D, LPC. “Any kind of substance abuse, that’s alcohol or drug.”

Dr. Logan has been working at the jail for nearly five years, helping inmates with mental health and substance abuse issues. She says, often times, inmates are dealing with both.

“They have the co-occurring, some type of substance abuse with some type of underlying mental health issue of depression or anxiety,” Logan said.

“Typically, I say over 80-percent of the detainees here at the jail have some form of behavioral health issue,” said Sheriff Asbell.

Prior to being sworn in as sheriff, Asbell was superintendent of the jail. In 2010, he launched the mental and behavioral health programs offered to inmates today.

“We concentrate more on the rehabilitation side of corrections versus just the punitive-style of incarceration,” Asbell said.

Asbell says his perspective changed when an inmate shared his story of addiction.

“Say if i was dunking your heard underwater. You’re going to do everything you can to breathe. You’re going to bite; you’re going to punch; you’re going to scratch; you’re going to use anything, Everything in your body, in your power, to get your head out of water, to get oxygen. He said, it’s the same feeling when you’re on heroin. Your body is searching for that drug.”

Treating withdrawals can be life of death.

“If the withdrawals aren’t caught, you could die from it,” Logan said. “Linking them to access to care is huge when they get released from here [when] they have an addiction issue and they’re more likely to relapse when they get out of here and [are] more likely to overdose.”

That means getting an inmate off drugs is the beginning.

“We try to kind of install the notion of treatment,” Logan said. “If we have more time with somebody, obviously, they’re done going through the withdrawal process, we can on the individual level do counseling, we can do therapy, work with them, help them learn some of those life skills, coping skills that will help them stay away, or at least start the treatment process.”

It’s all about reducing recidivism. That’s why inmates can be given information before their release about addiction recovery, mental health treatment, job training and housing.

“we don’t want the gaps,” explained Asbell. “Gaps cause re-offense. Gaps cause idle hands. Gaps cause individuals not making good decisions, again, and unfortunately, they often end up back in jail and that’s what we’re trying to stop.”

 Rhe jail partners with groups ranging from ELITE, to the Human Service Center, to Heartland Health Services, to the South Side Office of Concern.

Time is donated and costs associated with the programs are paid for with an inmate benefit fund and a commissary system.

“The inmate benefit fund will pay for some of the programs,” said Asbell. “We’ve been using that funding source to offset the costs for the CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) program, as well as our jobs partnership program and will assist with the GED, when necessary, as well.”

While it’s not the only factor, Sheriff Asbell points to what’s going on behind bars for the decreased average daily population – the number of inmates behind bars.

Four years ago, it could range between 550 and 600.

Today, it’s closer to 350.