Stepping Up Innovator County Q&A: Johnson County, Kansas

May 23, 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: Allie Dickinson
Title: Criminal Justice Coordinator
Name of County: Johnson County, Kansas
County Population: 597,555

When the County Joined Stepping Up: May 2015

Why did you join the Stepping Up initiative?

Johnson County joined the Stepping Up Initiative to demonstrate its commitment to diverting individuals with serious mental illnesses away from jails and hospitals by connecting them to effective care at the earliest opportunity.

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

Since joining the Stepping Up Initiative, our jurisdiction has worked on the following key factors: adopting an agreed-upon, system-wide definition of mental illness and substance addiction, implementing a validated electronic mental health screening process at booking, and completing new Sequential Intercept Mapping.

Additionally, we have continued to improve upon efforts that were already underway by working toward innovative, intergovernmental solutions to expand our Mental Health Co-Responder Program, equipping criminal justice professionals with Mental Health First Aid and Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, and implementing a Veterans Treatment Court.

How have you addressed barriers to tracking progress toward this goal?

We have a Justice and Mental Health Work Team that meets quarterly to discuss forensic mental health programming, the Veterans Treatment Court, mental health legislation, CIT updates, and Brief Jail Mental Health Screen (BJMHS) data.

To aid in the gathering of our baseline data, we utilize our Justice Information Management System (JIMS). JIMS is a fully integrated criminal justice record management system that was built by Johnson County in the early 1990s. It collects information about individuals from the point of booking to release from jail or termination from probation. JIMS gives us the ability to cross-reference about 29 years of jail data and 25 years of district court case information. The JIMS department built a data extraction report such that BJMHS data can be extracted on demand and shared with partners system-wide. We have the ability to leverage BJMHS data with multiple datasets; for example, we track these data by individual police departments, booking types, charge descriptions, length of stay for people with symptoms of serious mental illness, and the overall prevalence rate of serious mental illness. Barriers have also been addressed by utilizing a Criminal Justice Advisory Council.

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

We aim to drive change by using data to provide policymakers with a realistic assessment of Johnson County’s capacity to effectively serve this population, by seeking and promoting new opportunities for collaboration and service integration, and by continuing our efforts to raise awareness of the need for early detection and connection to services for this population.

Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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