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Stepping Up Announces Set, Measure, Achieve: A Nationwide Call to Action for Counties to Reduce Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System

WASHINGTON, DC, September 23, 2020—The Stepping Up initiative today announced Set, Measure, Achieve, a national call to action for counties to publicly commit to goals that demonstrate reduced prevalence of mental illness in local justice systems. Stepping Up is asking participating counties to set tangible targets, measure their progress, and achieve results.

Stepping Up is a national initiative launched in May 2015 by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, the National Association of Counties (NACo), and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APA Foundation) to rally counties to achieve a measurable reduction in the number of people in jail who have mental illnesses. Stepping Up counties are encouraged to collect accurate, accessible baseline data on the prevalence of serious mental illness (SMI) in their jails, a crucial step that helps county leaders identify key drivers of the problem and create an action plan tailored to their jurisdiction’s most critical needs.

“America’s counties are leading efforts to reduce the prevalence of mental illnesses and substance use disorders in jails. We have implemented effective reforms and data collection to help keep our communities healthy, safe and vibrant,” said NACo President Gary Moore. “With more than 500 counties participating in the Stepping Up initiative, we are taking our efforts to the next level with Set, Measure, Achieve. This blueprint for the next five years positions county leaders to advance Stepping Up’s mission and connect more people to potentially life-saving treatment.”

To participate in Set, Measure, Achieve, counties that have successfully established baseline data are encouraged to identify and publicly commit to one or more of the following minimum prevalence reduction targets for their jail population with SMI:

    • 5-percent annual reduction in average daily jail population
    • 10-percent annual reduction in jail bookings
    • 5-percent annual reduction in average length of jail stay
    • 10-percent annual increase in post-release connections to care
    • 5-percent annual reduction in recidivism

“The American Psychiatric Association Foundation has supported the Stepping Up Initiative since its inception because it’s a practical approach to a serious problem that far too often goes under the radar,” said APA President Dr. Jeffrey Geller. “Two million times each year, people with serious mental illness end up in jail in the United States. The counties that join Set, Measure, Achieve will do important work to cut this number and to connect people who have mental illness or substance use disorder with the treatment they need.”

To help participating counties reach their goals, Stepping Up partners will provide technical assistance, resources, and other types of support to guide counties in their efforts to set, measure, and achieve their prevalence reduction targets. Several Stepping Up Innovator CountiesBernalillo County, New Mexico; Douglas County, Kansas; Franklin County, Ohio; Montgomery County, Pennsylvania; and Sarpy County, Nebraska—have announced their participation in Set, Measure, Achieve.

Stepping Up will also embark on a multi-year national data collection effort to better understand local efforts on a national level, tailor assistance to counties, and highlight successful policies and programs. Every 12 months, counties that participate in Set, Measure, Achieve will be asked to voluntarily share data showing their progress toward reaching their prevalence reduction targets, which will only be shared with the county’s permission.

“Data is crucial for local leaders to identify why people with serious mental illnesses are in their jail, create a tailored action plan, and, ultimately, divert more people from incarceration to community-based supports,” said Dr. Ayesha Delany-Brumsey, director of Behavioral Health at the CSG Justice Center. “By collecting data on counties’ progress toward reducing their jail population with mental illnesses, we can build an accurate and timely understanding of the various local efforts and their collective impact on a national scale.”

Stepping Up partners will host a virtual roundtable to discuss Set, Measure, Achieve on September 30, 2020, for counties that are interested in participating in the new call to action. Participants will hear from partners and county representatives who have joined the call to action. Register here if you’re interested in attending the event.

To learn more about Set, Measure, Achieve, please visit For news and updates, subscribe to the Stepping Up mailing list and follow #StepUp4MentalHealth on social media.