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Site Snapshot: Update on How Three Counties Are Serving High-Needs Populations
The CSG Justice Center is highlighting three of these communities: Bernalillo County, New Mexico; Fulton County, Georgia; and Polk County, Iowa. Each of these jurisdictions is both a Stepping Up Innovator and a MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge site. This snapshot focuses on the sites’ successes and challenges in their work with priority populations, as well as some of their upcoming goals. Read more about where these counties started. Read More
Site Snapshot: How Three Counties Are Serving High-Needs Populations
The CSG Justice Center is highlighting three of these communities: Bernalillo County, New Mexico; Fulton County, Georgia; and Polk County, Iowa. To understand their progress and their challenges, we will check in with these counties over the course of the next two years. Each of these jurisdictions is both a Stepping Up Innovator County and a MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge site. Read More
Engaging People with Lived Experience in Stepping Up Efforts
The Tulsa County board of commissioners passed a resolution to join the national Stepping Up initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in its jail in 2015. As part of these efforts, county leaders realized that understanding and integrating the perspectives of people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders, especially those who have been involved in the justice system and/or experienced homelessness, would be beneficial to include in planning processes for the county. Through creative partnerships and the inclusion of peers in the planning stages, Tulsa County created programs and services to better meet the needs of its most vulnerable residents. Read More
Communicating About Efforts to Reduce the Number of People With Mental Illnesses in Jails
In 2015, the Alamance County board of commissioners passed a resolution to join the national Stepping Up initiative to guide its efforts to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jail. As part of their Stepping Up efforts, county leaders established a mission statement, created two part-time coordinator positions and formed a task force, a leadership team and several associated committees to develop a strategic plan that included messaging around what efforts are taking place locally to address connections to services for people with mental illness involved in the justice system. Read More
Addressing Housing Needs of People With Mental Illnesses Involved in the Justice System
In 2015, Johnson County joined the national Stepping Up initiative to reduce the prevalence of individuals with mental illness in jails and in 2016, committed to the Data-Driven Justice project to provide alternatives to jail for people who frequently cycle through health, human services and justice systems. As part of these efforts, the county partners with a nonprofit homeless services provider to identify individuals cycling through these various systems and offer low-barrier housing and other solutions to address the needs of county residents experiencing chronic homelessness. Read More
Six Questions Case Studies: Question 1: Is Our Leadership Committed?
Reducing the number of adults with mental illnesses in jails requires a cross-systems, collaborative approach involving a system-wide planning team. Planning teams may already exist in the form of a criminal justice coordinating council or mental health task force, or your county may decide to create a new planning team. Planning teams should include, at a minimum, county elected officials such as commissioners or supervisors, criminal justice and behavioral health leaders, representatives from the courts, people with mental illnesses or their family members and other relevant community stakeholders. Designating a person to coordinate the planning team’s meetings and activities and to manage details will push the initiative plans forward. In addition, an elected official should be designated as the planning team chairperson, as strong leadership from elected officials is essential to rally county agencies in these efforts. Read More
Six Questions Case Studies: Question 2: Do We Conduct Timely Screening and Assessments?
Counties should have a clear and accurate process for identifying people with mental illnesses coming into the jail. This requires conducting a screening for symptoms of mental illness on every person booked into jail, as well as for other behavioral health needs such as substance use disorders. Jails should also screen individuals for pretrial and criminogenic risks to help determine release and supervision strategies. People who screen positive for symptoms of mental illness should be referred to a follow-up clinical assessment by a licensed mental health professional. Ideally, these clinical assessment results will be recorded in a database or spreadsheet that can be queried. Having accurate information on individuals’ risk and needs will assist with referrals to mental health treatment while they are in the jail and connections to services when they are released. Having the ability to store and query this information using system-wide definitions of mental illness and serious mental illness will assist with county planning efforts. Read More
Six Questions Case Studies: Question 3: Do We Have Baseline Data?
Baseline data highlight where some of the best opportunities exist to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in the jail and provide benchmarks against which progress can be measured. The following four key measures are important indicators for counties to track and can help structure county efforts to address these challenges: 1) The number of people with mental illnesses booked into jail; 2) Their average length of stay; 3) The percentage of people with mental illnesses connected to treatment; and 4) Their recidivism rates. Counties may consider comparing these four key measures to those of the general population in the jail to identify disparities. These comparisons can be especially useful when data on both populations are disaggregated further by charge type, criminogenic risk level, race, gender or other demographic factors. Read More
Six Questions Case Studies: Question 4: Have We Conducted a Comprehensive Process Analysis and Inventory of Services?
An opportunity exists at every step along the criminal justice continuum to improve responses to a person’s mental health needs. Completing a comprehensive process analysis helps county leaders determine where improvements can be made to better identify needs and share information. Some counties choose to conduct an initial analysis through a system mapping exercise. It is important that an inventory of community-based services and supports also be conducted as part of this process, and data to support this analysis should be included at all possible points. For example, knowing the current number of people who have mental illness who are booked into jail helps county leaders determine the scale of the problem they are working to address and can be used to the compare arrest rates of people who have mental illness to people who do not. Read More