Efforts to Reduce Incarceration of Those with Mental Illnesses Earn Johnson County Distinction as National Leader

May 17, 2018

Shawnee Mission Post

By Jay Senter

The coordinated efforts of local government and law enforcement agencies have put Johnson County at the forefront of a national effort to keep people with mental illnesses out of jail when possible.

On Wednesday, county leaders announced Johnson County had been selected as one of just seven Innovator Counties through Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails.

Johnson County was chosen in part because it is already employing a set of protocols and tools to screen for and treat mental illness advocated by the national initiative. They are:

  • establishing a shared definition of serious mental illness for local criminal justice and behavioral health systems’ Stepping Up efforts;
  • ensuring everyone booked into jail is screened for mental illness and those who screen positive are referred to a follow-up clinical assessment; and
  • regularly reporting on this population.

Johnson County was an early participant in the program, piloting a variety of tactics aimed at diverting the mentally ill from jail and instead directing them to treatment programs.

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