Stepping up Initiative Seeks to Keep Mentally Ill out of Jail

The Morning Journal

By Kevin Martin

Lorain County aims to keep the mentally ill out of jails.

So the Lorain County Board of Mental Health and the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office along with several community partners ranging from local police departments and the court system are participating in an innovative program aimed at intervention and redirection.

According to the national Stepping Up initiative, each year more than two million people suffering from severe mental illnesses find themselves incarcerated turning county jails into makeshift psychiatric facilities and making it more difficult for those in need to receive the care they need.

“I found it interesting just the way the Stepping Up initiative is designed to be really strategic,” said Kathleen Kern, Ph.D., executive director of the Lorain County Board of Mental Health. “So, the idea is we all have this common interest: We don’t want people with severe mentally illness in jail.

“But then, they look at it from all the different points where you could intercept somebody and put them on a different trajectory.”

Working together with different stakeholders, they are able to ask different questions and develop creative strategies to intervene and address the needs of the mentally ill at multiple levels from a clinical perspective and intervene in the judicial process and re-entry following incarceration, Kern said.

Sheriff’s Office statistics from 2016, indicate it costs an average of $74 per day to incarcerate someone in Lorain County.

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