A Matter of Public Health and Safety: How States Can Support Local Crisis Systems

A Matter of Public Health and Safety: How States Can Support Local Crisis Systems

The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated deep-rooted systemic problems related to inequitable access to necessary care and services to address—and prevent—mental health crises in communities. Taking an intentional approach to creating and advancing local crisis care systems can help mitigate these situations, as building local crisis systems has proved to be successful and cost-effective. This brief details five actions state policymakers can take to fund and sustain local crisis systems and provides case examples of how local crisis systems in two jurisdictions have achieved cost savings and positive outcomes. (Photo credit: Sean Pavone via Shutterstock)

Alex Blandford and Stephanie Shaw | June 2021 | The Council of State Governments Justice Center

Project Credits

Writing: Alex Blandford and Stephanie Shaw, CSG Justice Center

Research: Jessica Gonzales-Bricker, CSG Justice Center

Advising: Ayesha Delany-Brumsey, CSG Justice Center

Editing: Leslie Griffin and Emily Morgan, CSG Justice Center

Design: Michael Bierman

Public Affairs: Ruvi Lopez, CSG Justice Center

Key Informants: Jessica Smarro, Bexar County, Department of Behavioral Health, Behavioral Health Manager; Patrick Steck, Interim Assistant Director, Department of Human Services, San Antonio; Gilbert Gonzales, Director, Department of Behavioral Health, Bexar County; Mike Lozito, Director, Office of Criminal Justice Policy, Planning and Programs, Bexar County; Kathryn Griffin, Justice Reinvestment Coordinator, Office of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson; Jeff Vanderploeg, President and Chief Executive Officer of both the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut and its parent organization the Children’s Fund of Connecticut; Grace Guerrero, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Forensic Jail Diversion/TOW/PATH Team Supervisor, Crisis Intervention Center, Arlington, VA; Suzanne Somerville, Behavioral Health Division, Bureau Chief, Residential and Specialized Clinical Services Bureau, Arlington, VA; Amber Widgery, National Conference of State Legislatures, Program Principal, Criminal Justice Program; Melissa Bailey, Director of Behavioral Health and Child Health Transformation, Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc.; Mark Larson, Senior Vice President, Leadership and Capacity Building, Center for Health Care Strategies; Joan Gillece, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Director, Center for Innovation in Behavioral Health Policy and Practice


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Program Director, Behavioral Health
Alex Blandford oversees and executes the CSG Justice Center's health policy portfolio and works to improve access to health care for people in the criminal justice system through federal, state, and local policy. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center,
Alex was a project coordinator for the Institute for Evaluation Science in Community Health, which is housed in the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. As a project coordinator, she oversaw a variety of research projects, including one examining the Pittsburgh region’s emergency response to mental health crises, and another evaluating the region’s Crisis Intervention Team training for police officers. She earned her BS in psychology and BA in French from the Pennsylvania State University and her MPH at the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.
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    Deputy Program Director, Corrections and Reentry
    Stephanie Ueberall works with states and counties to improve outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system. Stephanie has also worked to reduce the overuse of jail through initiatives such as Stepping Up and the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice
    Challenge. She has extensive experience with youth and families involved in the justice system through direct service, research, technical assistance, and program design. Most recently, Stephanie was the director of violence prevention at the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, where she worked to enhance community-led youth gun violence prevention. Stephanie holds a BS in psychology from the University of Arizona and an MA in community psychology from the University of New Haven.
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