Stepping Up Initiative Takes on Challenges of Mental Health in Jails

December 21, 2016

Appeal-Democrat

By Rachel Rosenbaum

A national initiative looking to address mental health issues within jails across the nation is receiving some local support.

The Stepping Up Initiative aims to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails. It is led by the National Association of Counties, the Counties, The Council of State Governments Justice Center and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation.

“I’ve been doing this for 23 years, and a lot of that was working the field … mental health has always been a major issue and concern,” Jeff Pask, assistant chief probation office for Yuba County, said. “Whether that mental health issue is intrinsic or drug-induced, it seems to be a fairly large population that suffers from (these) issues.”

Yuba and Sutter counties are two of the 316 counties all over the nation that have passed resolutions to take part in The Stepping Up Initiative. While the specific plan to combat this serious issue hasn’t been laid out yet, county representatives will get the “blueprint” when they attend a summit in January, Pask said.

“Ultimately we’re trying to tackle a problem that’s not new,” Richard Cho, director of behavioral health for the CSG Justice Center and project manager for the initiative said. “It’s become commonplace that our jails have become de facto hospitals.”

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