Stepping Up Innovator Counties Q&A: Polk County, Iowa

June 7, 2019

By The Council of State Governments Justice Center Staff

This Mental Health Month, the Stepping Up initiative reached out to some of its Innovator Counties to find out why they joined Stepping Up and what they’re doing to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in their jails and #StepUp4MentalHealth.

Name: Angela Connolly
Title: Polk County Supervisor
Name of County: Polk County, Iowa
County Population: 487,000
When the County Joined Stepping Up: June 2015

Why did you join the Stepping Up initiative?

Our Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s vision was in line with the Stepping Up initiative and the Stepping Up framework assisted in moving the vision forward.

Since joining Stepping Up, what changes have you made to achieve your goal of reducing the prevalence of mental illness in county jail?

Polk County has focused on providing law enforcement with Crisis Intervention Team training and information about mental health community resources. Along with the county’s Crisis Observation Center, a psychiatric urgent care center was opened so individuals may receive treatment when needed. For those with a mental illness who are uninsured and are booked into jail, psychiatric medications are available, free of charge, for up to six months upon release.

How does your county plan to continue driving change as an Innovator County?

Polk County is currently working on creating a platform to identify people with mental illnesses who frequently use emergency services. As individuals are identified, community-based mental health services are offered.

Polk County will continue to train law enforcement in Crisis Intervention Team training and will develop and implement refresher courses.

Law enforcement, crisis service providers, local hospital ER providers, mental health providers, substance use providers, and probation staff will continue to meet on a quarterly basis to discuss strengths, weaknesses, and gaps within our county’s Sequential Intercept Model.

Polk County will continue to develop and implement a sobering center as a therapeutic alternative to incarceration.

Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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