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Strategic Plan For Potter County Criminal Justice

August 19th, 2018 Comments off

crimjusticeSteps are being taken to meet the priorities identified in the most recent Potter County Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB)  strategic plan. It’s a detailed document that identifies the issues, challenges, priorities to guide the county’s criminal justice system in working together to improve outcomes. CJAB officers are Judge Stephen Minor, chairman; Commissioner Paul Heimel, vice chairman; and Colleen Wilber, Potter County Human Services, secretary. Overall goals in the CJAB action plan include:

  • Implementation of a Pretrial Diversion Program for Potter County.
  • Continued partnership with the National Data-Driven Justice Initiative.
  • Expanded early education programs to identify and address the rise in juvenile anti-social behavior/mental health and criminal activity.
  • Transitional/half-way housing for offenders along with an increased focus on skills training and employment needs.
  • Training on understanding, cooperation and communication among all the criminal justice agencies and offices in the county.

To reduce the number of criminals who re-offend (recidivism), the board has identified the following gaps: need for more vocational training; enhancing and creating more youth services; lack of family support services; need for data collection; need for more correctional alternatives; lack of service system addressing behavioral health issues, lack of support from the community and funding.

To address these issues, the board has proposed: addressing the stigma; educating employers; developing a community center; an increase in Children & Youth Services involvement; community ownership; enhancing efforts to prepare inmates for re-entering society; providing education for offenders and their families; providing behavioral health treatment; enhancing mentoring programs; working with different age groups; and pursuing alternative sentencing options.

For alcohol and drug abuse-related crimes, the board has identified the following gaps: lack of education; lack of disposal of old medication; lack of drug-related education for licensed doctors; lack of communication between doctors and pharmacists; lack of doctor accountability; identity theft for acquisition of drugs; and a lack of general data.

To address these issues, the board has proposed the following strategies: pursuing goals of the National Data-Driven Justice Initiative; continuing Medication Take-Back Days and Collection Boxes; enhancing communication between the criminal justice system and the physical health/behavioral health fields; continuing doctor education; and increasing alcohol, tobacco and other drugs education through evidenced-based programs within the school districts.

For mental health-related crimes, the board has identified the following gaps: lack of training for personnel; a gap between Substance Abuse and Mental Health programs; lack of funding; lack of available treatment; and lack of county in-patient facilities.

To address these issues, the board has proposed: engagement with the national Stepping Up initiative; training for probation officers, jail personnel, and others; secure funding for alternatives; examine resources and how they are used in the system; examine the creation of a Mental Health Court, and increasing co-occurring (mental health/drug abuse) options.

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 consisting of Commissioner Heimel, Human Services Administrator Jim Kockler, Criminal Justice Resources Coordinator Jessica Giebel and Mental Health Programming Specialist Bryonna Mann held its initial meeting last week.

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.

Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall Coming Sept. 13-17

July 6th, 2018 Comments off

Representatives of local veterans service organizations have joined forces to bring The Moving Wall, a half-size replica of Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., to Potter County this year. Plans call for the exhibit to be set up at Coudersport Area Recreation Park (CARP) from Thursday evening, Sept. 13, through mid-day Monday, Sept. 17. A project of this undertaking requires a considerable amount of planning and volunteer service. Potter County Veterans Affairs Director Bill Simpson and Post 192 Adjutant Ted Parsell are heading the planning committee, with support from other area veterans service posts across Potter County. The Moving Wall lists the names of the more than 58,000 Americans who were killed in the war. It will be on display 24/7 with guides available to help locate names and other educational exhibits on the grounds. Financial support is coming from the Potter County Commissioners and the Pennsylvania Veterans Trust Fund. Additional support will come through the commissioners’ affiliation with the Commemoration of the Vietnam War initiative, a project of the U.S. Congress and the Defense Department.

Amateur Radio Operators ‘Unsung Heroes’ Of 911

July 6th, 2018 Comments off

With little fanfare, licensed amateur radio operators have been filling the gaps in emergency communications across Potter County for decades. This week, Commissioners Doug Morley, Susan Kefover and Paul Heimel brought the Headwaters Amateur Radio Club out of the shadows for some long-overdue accolades. At the same time, dedicated licensed operators Tom and Diane Guilfoy turned the tables by commending the commissioners for allowing the club to mount its aerials on county-owned towers and by providing a small operations center in the county’s Gunzburger Building.

Tom Guilfoy said the “ham radio” operators not only can bridge the gaps of communications in sections of terrain inaccessible by traditional 911 service, they can also use their battery-operated units to relay urgent communications in the event of power outages or other emergencies. “If you would like two good examples of how ham radio operators were pressed into service, you need look no further than the attacks on the World Trade Center and the devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico,” he pointed out. “The only way to relay communications in and out of the disaster scenes was by amateur radio operators.”

In Potter County, the Headwaters organization plays an important role in the local emergency planning process, said Commissioner Morley, who also serves as director of emergency services. He pointed out that the Headwaters club is assisting in the planning process for the county’s reconstruction and modernization of the 911 emergency communications system by advising on areas of service gaps and other details. More information about the club is available here

Registration Still Open For Emergency Services ‘Reverse 911’

June 29th, 2018 Comments off

Potter County Emergency Management Agency has launched a new community notification system to provide important alerts and time-sensitive messages using phone calls, email, social media sites and text messaging. It’s a “reverse-911” concept that can help people prepare for imminent weather emergencies or other risks to public safety. Commissioners Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover approved a contract with OnSolve, the company that provides the service, referred to as CodeRED.

“This system can deliver critical information to thousands of individuals within minutes,” explained Glenn Dunn, the county’s emergency management coordinator.  “Alerts can be specific to streets, neighborhoods, or regions.” OnSolve has provided the Potter County DES an initial database of residential and business telephone numbers. However, all residents living within Potter County limits are encouraged to visit www.pottercountypa.net and click on the CodeRED logo to enroll their contact information including cell phone numbers, text and email addresses. No one should automatically he is in the emergency contact database. Additional information is also available at 274-8900, extension 501.

Potter County Board Of Auditors Releases Report

June 29th, 2018 Comments off

Potter County Auditors Michele Gledhill, Pauline Kleintop and Jeanette E. Stuckey have completed their review of county financial records and posted their 2017 audit report on the county website, pottercountypa.net (click on Departments/Auditors). Under the County Code of Pennsylvania, in each county where the office of controller has not been established, three county auditors are elected every four years to audit the fiscal affairs of the county. Certain state and federal government programs also require counties to retain the services of independent auditors with certified public accountant credentials for review of fiscal operations through a process known as a “single-county audit.” For more than a decade, Potter County has retained the services of Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC of Harrisburg.