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Program aims to address staff, inmate mental health in Idaho prisons

$500,000 pilot program is aimed at helping staff members and prison residents deal with trauma, burnout and stress

Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho)

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Department of Correction recently received $500,000 to launch a pilot program aimed at helping staff members and prison residents deal with trauma, burnout and stress.

The money was approved during the 2022 legislative session and was included in the department’s budget. It was part of Gov. Brad Little’s Leading Idaho plan that expanded mental health resources in the state by $50 million. The governor’s request was fully funded by the Legislature.

According to the department, people who work in the correctional industry experience high levels of stress, burnout and other mental health-related consequences. Correction staff also have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide compared to people in the general working-age population. These conditions affect people’s lives, including relationships with family, friends and coworkers, along with various obligations and hobbies.

Currently, the department is seeking health care providers who can deliver holistic solutions that address corrections fatigue, trauma and stress. The pilot program is intended to provide mental health first aid, one-on-one incident response and other services.

The first phase of the trauma intervention program will focus on correctional staff. The department is inviting mental health professionals to submit proposals describing how they would help staff address trauma-related problems like stress and burnout.

“We count on these dedicated professionals to keep the people of Idaho safe,” said Josh Tewalt, director of the Idaho Department of Correction. “We want to do more to help them stay healthy in the course of performing their difficult and sometimes dangerous jobs.”

Qualified professionals who are eligible to apply for funding through the trauma intervention program include licensed psychologists, master’s level social workers, professional counselors, and other credentialed individuals who have experience treating psychological trauma and stress.

The program was a recommendation of the three-branch Behavioral Health Council. A second opportunity for clinicians interested in serving incarcerated residents will follow later this year.

More information about the trauma intervention program, including the funding application, is available at the department’s website.