An inmate makes it off the mental health waitlist, but solutions still sought

SALT LAKE CITY — A mentally ill woman who was featured in a Deseret News investigation about how inmates are waiting five months or more to get into the state psychiatric hospital in Provo was transferred to the facility on Tuesday.

Diane Prigge, 62, of Provo, was still in jail nearly eight months after she had been ordered to receive treatment from the Utah State Hospital when her case was profiled last week. Prigge had been arrested nearly a year ago on misdemeanor charges but could not proceed with her case until she was healthy enough to participate in her own defense.

Aaron Kinikini, legal director of the Disability Law Center in Utah, said news of Prigge’s transfer was met with “relief tempered by frustration.”

“The frustration is constant that there is this waitlist,” said Kinikini, who is representing inmates in a class-action lawsuit against the Utah Department of Human Services over how long it takes to get a bed at the psychiatric hospital. “It would be so much more productive if some high-level decision-makers could be proactive about looking at this issue rather than waiting until someone files a lawsuit.”

Thirty-five men and women with severe mental illnesses are still vying for one of 100 beds at the Provo facility.

Another 28 inmates are receiving regular visits from social workers through the hospital’s outreach program but remain incarcerated despite being deemed by mental health workers to be too ill to participate in their own defense.

Gov. Gary Herbert’s spokesman, Paul Edwards, said on Tuesday that the governor is “deeply concerned” about the people on the waitlist…

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