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Potter County Moving Forward With ‘Stepping Up’

August 8th, 2018 Comments off

stepupPotter County has renewed its commitment to the national Stepping Up Initiative, a comprehensive plan to reduce the number of mentally ill men and women behind bars. Commissioners Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover approved the required resolution last year. Since that time, the Potter County Criminal Justice Advisory Board has adopted Stepping Up as a top priority. A planning team has been meeting to guide the process.

Counties have been forced into the position of having to provide treatment services to people with serious mental illnesses booked in county jails. Prevalence rates of serious mental illnesses in jails are three to six times higher than for the general population. Adults with mental illnesses tend to stay longer in jail and, upon release, are at a higher risk of recidivism than people without these disorders. County jails spend two to three times more on adults with mental illnesses that require interventions compared to those without these treatment needs. Without the appropriate treatment and services, many people with mental illnesses continue to cycle through the criminal justice system, often resulting in tragic outcomes for these individuals and their families.

smart_justice_logo_1Potter County has developed a DUI Treatment Court, Drug Treatment Court and a pilot Pre-trial Diversion Program which helps people stay out of jail by offering alcohol/substance use disorder treatment and related services. Almost three-quarters of adults with serious mental illnesses in jails have co-occurring substance use disorders. Through Stepping Up, the National Association of Counties, Council of State Governments Justice Center, National Sheriffs Association, and American Psychiatric Association are encouraging public, private and non-profit partners to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails. Potter County has pledged its participation through the following strategy:

  • Convene or draw on a diverse team of leaders and decision-makers from multiple agencies committed to safely reducing the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.
  • Collect and review prevalence numbers and assess individuals’ needs to better identify adults entering jails with mental illnesses and their recidivism risk, and use that baseline information to guide decision-making at the system, program, and case levels.
  • Examine treatment and service capacity to determine which programs and services are available in the county for people with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders, and identify state and local policy and funding barriers to minimizing contact with the justice system and providing treatment and supports in the community.
  • Develop a plan with measurable outcomes that draws on the jail assessment and prevalence data and the examination of available treatment and service capacity, while considering identified barriers.
  • Implement research-based approaches that advance the plan.
  • Create a process to track progress using data and information systems, and to report on successes.

Stepping Up does not require the establishment of a separate Mental Health Court, but rather can be implemented in a manner that complements the DUI/Drug Treatment Courts. Grants are available to support counties that commit to Stepping Up and could cover any added expenses, such as staffing, treatment or administration. Details on Stepping Up are available on the website, stepuptogether.org.