Stepping Up Innovator County Q&A: Pacific County, Washington

May 28, 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: Rosanne McPhail
Title: Stepping Up Initiative and Justice Mental Health Collaboration Program Coordinator
Name of County: Pacific County, Washington
County Population: 21,626
When the County Joined Stepping Up: December 2015

Why did you join the Stepping Up initiative?

Our county received a Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program Category 1 planning grant in October 2015. It seemed like a perfect time to pass a resolution to support and guide us in our work. The resources that this initiative provides have been invaluable to the work that we have been able to do in our county.

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

We have made strides in many areas. We have implemented a validated screening tool, the Brief Jail Mental Health Screen, which is given to everyone at booking. The results of the screening are tracked in the electronic jail data system. We now have a jail liaison, who coordinates program referrals, assessments, and reentry planning. We have developed a streamlined system to ensure that individuals who screen positive are referred for assessment, and that those assessments occur in a timely manner. In addition, we have jail-based mental health and substance addiction treatment. Our county is actively engaged in providing Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) for Adults and Youth. We continue to hold training for agencies such as schools, hospitals, behavioral health providers, and other community groups. Last fall, the entire 911 dispatch staff received MHFA for Public Safety training, and we will be providing this to law enforcement agencies beginning this fall.

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

We work with the jail data super-user to gather as much information as possible electronically. Currently, we are piloting a new data collection spreadsheet that will capture information to assist in system improvement and development. We have good communication with our behavioral health providers to gather data to inform our practices while maintaining confidentiality. We hold monthly workgroups to help identify issues and brainstorm solutions.

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

We continue to move forward with this work in multiple ways. First and foremost, we maintain collaborative partnerships. There is no doubt that the strides that we have been able to make have happened as a result working from a Collective Impact Model. The committed group of partners are unwavering in their dedication to creating a better system for people in our community. Specifically, we will be looking at how to refine the work that is occurring in the jail. This involves a close look at the system, where there are still needs to be met, and how to most efficiently use our resources. We have a strong, newly developed Opioid Response Team that will be driving change around Medication Assisted Treatment, peer supports, and employment support for individuals with opioid addictions. A pilot transportation program to assist individuals being released from jail to go directly to a behavioral health provider for intake/assessment has recently started. We will be looking again at the intercept points to see where we can divert earlier to continue to work toward reducing recidivism.

Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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