Secretaries of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health, Department of Corrections, and others launched a first-of-its-kind resource center on Oct. 15 in Philadelphia focused on helping counties reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jail through research-driven approaches.
Stepping Up Initiative
Since May 2015, more than 450 counties have passed resolutions to join Stepping Up, a national initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.
Recognizing the critical role local and state officials play in supporting change, the National Association of Counties (NACo), The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APAF) are leading this unprecedented national initiative.
NACo, the CSG Justice Center, and APAF are working with partner organizations to build on the foundation of innovative and evidence-based practices already being implemented across the country, and to bring these efforts to scale. These partners have expertise in the complex issues addressed by Stepping Up and include sheriffs, jail administrators, judges, community corrections professionals and treatment providers, consumers, advocates, behavioral health directors, and other stakeholders.
Reducing the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jail: Six Questions County Leaders Need to Ask serves as a blueprint for counties to assess their existing efforts to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders in jail by considering specific questions and progress-tracking measures.
Here are the six questions county leaders need to ask:
- Is your leadership committed?
- Do you have timely screening and assessment?
- Do you have baseline data?
- Have you conducted a comprehensive process analysis and service inventory?
- Have you prioritized policy, practice, and funding?
- Do you track progress?
Commander Kevin Huddle, the Sheriff’s Office point person for Stepping Up, closed the meeting with this statistic: In 1960, when the United States population was 150 million, there were 600,000 mental-health beds; today, he said, the population is 330 million, and there are 60,000 beds.
“We have good science,” Fred Osher, M.D., a retired health systems and services policy director for the Council of State Governments Justice Center, told us. “We have policies that are associated with a reduction of people with mental illnesses in the justice system. But we haven’t put it together and sustained it over time.”