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Kansas to Open Stepping Up Center to Reduce Number of People with Mental Illness in Jails

Topeka, Kan.—The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) and The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center announce the opening of the Kansas Stepping Up Technical Assistance (TA) Center to help counties reduce the prevalence of people with serious mental illness in jails.

The Kansas Stepping Up TA Center only the second of its kind in the nationwill offer virtual and in-person technical assistance tailored specifically to Kansas counties to support policies and programs that improve outcomes for people with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders in jails. Reinforced by support from the national Stepping Up initiative, this effort will be directly informed by local needs and guided by a leadership team of state and local representatives.

“We are proud Kansas is the second state to join the national Stepping Up program and we look forward to working with our state and local partners to strategize about how we can create a pathway for counties to take action on the crisis of mental illness in their jails and address this issue of public safety and unnecessary public spending while diverting more individuals to potentially life-saving treatment,” Governor Laura Kelly said.

The center will provide Kansas counties with baseline data regarding the number of people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders in jails. Counties will also receive expert support to set reduction targets, measure progress, and achieve results. The Kansas Stepping Up Technical Assistance Center was developed as part of KDADS’ Mental Health in Jails 2020 State Action Plan.

“Stepping Up has provided our county with the framework to bring stakeholders together to plan and implement improvements for the population with serious mental illness in our jail,” said Pam Weigand, Director of Criminal Justice Services and Chair of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Douglas County. “We are proud to have reduced this population by 56 percent over the last five years and we continue to set targets to improve our outcomes and serve this group of people who are disproportionately represented in our justice system.”

The Kansas Stepping Up Technical Assistance Center will also provide counties with:

  1. Connections with sites across the state and country to facilitate peer learning and provide concrete examples of successful strategies and policies;
  2. Access to national experts and a central information bank on best practices; and
  3. Guidance on the high-impact strategies and policies that achieve lasting results.

“Too often, individuals with serious mental illness are more likely to be arrested and remain in jail for long stays than to receive needed treatment that could potentially decelerate the situation,” KDADS Secretary Laura Howard said. “This initiative is designed to provide access to community-based mental health treatment as an alternative to jails being the most commonly used option for many of our most vulnerable citizens, including people who have serious mental illnesses and other behavioral health issues.”

Kansas counties interested in receiving assistance from the center should visit the website or reach out to to learn more. Counties are welcome to join the center on a rolling basis and those signed up will receive notifications of all available technical assistance.