The only other dually accredited correctional facility in the United States is the Chatham County Detention Center in Savannah, Georgia.

SHALIMAR — The Okaloosa County Department of Corrections recently became the first correctional facility in Florida and only the second in the nation to achieve a dually accredited status by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC).


►RELATED: Okaloosa celebrates new mental health diversion program


The only other dually accredited correctional facility in the United States is the Chatham County Detention Center in Savannah, Georgia.


The OCDOC has remained accredited for its health care standards since 2003, County Administrator John Hofstad told the County Commission on Tuesday. And in April, the department received accreditation for meeting standards for mental health services in a correctional facility.


The county jail, which is on U.S. Highway 90 and east of downtown Crestview, includes at least 10 medical beds in its mental health unit.


An independent, not-for-profit organization, the NCCHC is the only accrediting body dedicated exclusively to health care in our nation’s jails, prisons and juvenile facilities, Hofstad said.


“With our increased emphasis on treatment plans, care and counseling of our expecting inmates, and increased attention to privacy of care, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care awarded OCDOC an ’accredited status’ in April,” Hofstad said.


He added that there are a total of 58 mental health standards: 37 are “essential” standards and 21 are “important.” Accreditation is achieved by demonstrating 100% and 85% compliance, respectively.


At Tuesday’s meeting, Hofstad congratulated and awarded a plaque to county Corrections Director Eric Esmond and his staff.


Commissioner Graham Fountain, who is the commission’s liaison to the Department of Corrections, said the department has earned “just about every professional accreditation that is possible to obtain.


“This team has worked tirelessly, both on the operational and criminal justice side and on the healthcare side,” Fountain said. “It’s good every night to go to bed and not have to worry about what’s going on in the department of corrections.”


Esmond thanked his staff, said it is an honor to be part of such a strong county, and said his department will continue to try to provide the best services possible.


“Sometimes we know it can be a difficult endeavor, especially when it relates to mental health services,” Esmond said. “The world is shifting in a way that we now understand those things more clearly, and we have a responsibility and a duty to respond to those things.”


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Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel praised Esmond, his staff and the county’s recently implemented mental health diversion program.


The program, which local officials commemorated in January, aims to stabilize people who are going through mental health and/or substance abuse-related crises that may otherwise result in low-level criminal charges.


Such men and women generally are not violent criminals and are in desperate need of treatment more than jail time, according to county officials.


The mental health diversion program is administered at a Bridgeway Center facility on Shell Avenue in Fort Walton Beach. County officials hope to eventually get a large mental health diversion center built next to the jail.