Lubbock County and Sheriff’s Department Adopting Stepping Up Initiative
By Samantha Waddell
“Mental health is the single biggest issue we have facing our jails today.” Sheriff Kelly Rowe said.
Each year, more than two million people will enter the nation’s jail system with a mental illness.
“A lot of time if there is no other place for the person to be supported they will be taken to jail,” StarCare Associate CEO for Programing, Beth Lawson said.
Lawson said, “there is an intersection between the criminal justice system and the mental health system.”
She said due to different circumstances and lack of knowledge, people sometimes don’t know what to do.
“Often because of a lack of resources and community based services for medications, difficulty for people actually accessing inpatient hospitalization and so when somebody is experiencing mental health symptoms there is a time where they might be acting strangely, they might be interacting with individuals where people don’t understand what’s happening and so law enforcement gets called and in the community sometimes you don’t know where to call an ambulance or the police,” Lawson said.
Precinct Four County Commissioner Patti Jones said Lubbock County is ahead of the curve.
“Lubbock County has been a leader across the state as far as working with those agencies and trying to address mental illness,” Jones said. “It seems like it has taken a number of years to bring this issue to a state and national forefront.”
Rowe said he bowed lower the number of cases in Lubbock County Jail.
“Therefore, let it be resolved that we, Tom Head Lubbock County judge and commissioners do here by sign on the call of action to reduce the number of people with mental illness in our county jail,” Rowe said.
The Stepping Up Initiative will be working with agencies around the nation to support the change.
“It’s primary goal is to bring individuals who are on the ground that are dealing with these things that have found great solutions, that have found those that have not only work, but are affordable and most importantly, I think deliverable anywhere across the county,” Rowe said.
Rowe said the biggest challenge is getting good service to rural areas.
“When you look at Lubbock County as an example we are rapidly nearing 50 percent of the individuals entering into the Lubbock County detention center as having received some level of client services, now that’s varying in range some are far more significant than others,” Rowe said.
The Stepping Up Initiative, will now gather data to recognize and identify what is and isn’t working to improve jail systems across the country.