“I’d like to see Alabama as a ‘Stepping Up’ state,” Lynn Beshear, Alabama’s mental health commissioner, said. “I’ve been in touch with Ohio on how they did that.” Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services director Tracy Plouck serves on the board of directors for the Council of State Governments Justice Center, and was an early champion of the nationwide initiative.
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Stepping Up Ohio is working with counties to assess those with serious mental illness and treat them or refer them to the appropriate facility.
There are no national figures on how many people are held each year in jail just because they have nowhere else to go in a mental health crisis. Reports from the federal agency overseeing hospitals—the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—offer a glimpse. Since 2011, at least 22 hospitals in 16 states have been cited by CMS for failing to stabilize patients in need of mental health help, instead handing them over to law enforcement to wait for a psychiatric evaluation or a bed.
“What we want to do is establish the work here in Montgomery to be a model the to the state, to realize the goal of the Stepping Up initiative,” Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear said.
“You just get to have that kind of chit chat really and to learn and to make friends with people from other states, and that’s when the real learning begins because you start talking about what are your problems and how are you solving them,” said Yadkin County Commissioner Kevin Austin.
The bill, AB 154, would require judges to make a recommendation to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that a convicted felon receive a mental health evaluation if mental illness played a role in the crime.
Indiana’s McClean County is working with the University of Chicago to develop a database of information on so-called “super utilizers” of mental health services in the county that could be shared with public and private agencies.
Last week Gov. Steve Bullock visited the program as part of an initiative called Face to Face, organized by the National Reentry Resource Center and The Council of State Governments Justice Center.
A group of nine first responders and human services personnel will attend the event to present their work with Division First, a program that provides treatment to people with mental health or substance abuse issues instead of putting them in jail.
“We’re the first county in the state, and I believe the second smallest county in the nation, to participate in the Stepping Up Initiative,” Codington County Commissioner Lee Gabel said.