Summit County officials long have recognized that the county jail is not the best place to hold offenders who have mental illnesses or developmental disabilities. The question has been how to ensure such inmates receive the proper attention, for their own and others’ safety. Drew Alexander, the sheriff, forced matters to a head early this year by refusing to accept in the jail violent inmates with mental and developmental issues.

It is gratifying that the Summit County Board of Developmental Disabilities has risen to the challenge, finalizing an agreement with Oriana House that begins to resolve some of the problems.

The board will contract for four beds (three for men, and one for women) with Oriana House, which runs community-based corrections facilities and treatment programs for the county. The board will pay the agency up to $180 a day per bed, and Summit Psychological Services will provide additional services as needed. The arrangement will enable judges to send to the Oriana House facilities nonviolent individuals who receive services for developmental disabilities and are awaiting trial on misdemeanor or low-level felony charges.

The plan, which can be expanded as the need arises, will ensure appropriate care and supervision for a vulnerable population. Believed to be the first pretrial program of its kind in Ohio, the plan fits with the county’s reputation for innovative responses to complex social problems.