By Erin Weeks
All across the country, those who struggle from mental health and drug addictions fill jail cells and detention centers, addressing a symptom rather than the root cause of the problem.
Cabarrus County has joined a national initiative to reverse the trend. Stepping Up, which the county implemented at the detention center in January, seeks to meet those convicted or accused of crimes where they’re at, connecting them with resources for treatment and recovery.
“It’s a national initiative to decrease individuals in detention facilities that may have meant health issues or substance abuse issues,” Cabarrus County Stepping Up coordinator Tasha McLean said. “So it’s to decrease those numbers that maybe sometimes don’t necessarily need to be incarcerated. Maybe they just need some type of out-patient or in-patient treatment.”
McLean, who is employed by Daymark Recovery Services and contracted through the county, works directly with inmates as a connector to treatment if needed. When people are arrested and taken into custody, detention officers perform medical screenings, which she reviews. Certain questions are designed to determine if an individual has a mental health or substance abuse issue.
McLean then looks through the screenings to determine who might need a further conversation and meets with them to go through a more detailed questionnaire. She analyzes where that individual is currently in their mental health needs, and together they design a treatment and transition plan.