Oakland County, MI, Board of Commissioners ‘Stepping Up’ Resolution to Promote Treatment not Jail Time for People with Mental Illness

February 9, 2016

Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority
Northville Patch

The Oakland County Board of Commissioners (BOC) is teaming up with Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority (OCCMHA) and local members of the criminal justice system in support of the nationally recognized Stepping Up Initiative as stated in a recently approved resolution.

Stepping Up, an unprecedented national collaboration designed to reduce the number of people with a mental illness in jail through appropriate treatment and prevention services, was introduced in May 2015 by The National Association of Counties (NAC), the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, and the American Psychiatric Foundation (APF). An Oakland County Stepping Up resolution in support of this effort was presented by BOC member, Shelley Taub, and passed with a unanimous vote on January 20, 2016.

“As we looked at the criteria to join Stepping Up, it became very evident that Oakland County already has a number of successful programs that promote alternatives to jail for individuals with a mental illness, making this action an ideal partnership,” explains Commissioner Shelley Taub. “From providing crisis intervention training for local law enforcement, to Jail Diversion efforts, we continue to implement changes that establish lasting improvements system wide.”

According to national statistics provided by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, once incarcerated, people with mental illnesses tend to stay longer in jail and are at higher risk of re-arrest than individuals without these illnesses. Jails also spend two to three times more on people with mental illnesses than they do on people without this health disorder. Anywhere from 20 to 60 percent of a county’s budget goes toward costs associated with jails.

Stepping Up addresses this national public health and safety crisis by offering practical guidance and support to counties, including expert direction on collaborative planning and evidence-based practices.

“We have a responsibility to our community and its citizens to ensure valuable resources are in place so that jails do not replace institutions of the past as an acceptable option for non-violent offenders with a mental illness,” states OCCMHA Executive Director and CEO, Willie Brooks. “When alternatives to incarceration are made available to people, repeat experiences in the criminal justice system are avoided and paths to recovery are created.”

OCCMHA is working in collaboration with its community partners including, National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), Oakland County Health Division, Oakland County Law Enforcement agencies, and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) to identify and deliver effective service options. Examples of these preventive efforts include Pre-Booking Jail Diversion, Jail Alliance with Services (JAWS), Jail Services, and Crisis and Intervention Team (CIT) training for officers.

“Oakland County’s Stepping Up resolution demonstrates the commitment of our community leaders to do all that we can to increase awareness about mental illness, promote recovery, and prevent unnecessary jail sentences through appropriate and accessible treatment services,” adds Taub.

About OCCMHA

Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority is the public mental health system responsible for identifying, influencing, and delivering services and supports to approximately 27,000 Oakland County residents, including individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities, adults with mental illness, children with serious emotional disturbance, and persons with substance use disorders. Most of these individuals have Medicaid.

OCCMHA’s current network of service providers include: Common Ground, Community Housing Network, Community Living Services, Community Network Services, Easter Seals Michigan, Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, Oakland Family Services, Inc., and Training and Treatment Innovations. A complete list of substance use service providers is available on OCCMHA’s website. For more information about OCCMHA call (800) 341-2003 or visit www.occmha.org.

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