Building Capacity to Advance Local System Change for People with Behavioral Health Needs

A Snapshot of State-Led Solutions

Building Capacity to Advance Local System Change for People with Behavioral Health Needs: A Snapshot of State-Led Solutions

State and local jurisdictions are taking new approaches to reduce the numbers of people with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders in the local criminal justice system. But these efforts often run up against barriers and gaps that require state leadership, coordination, or funding support to overcome. Drawing on lessons learned through initiatives funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, this brief presents four ways that states can direct their efforts to support local communities: (1) strengthen and formalize cross-system collaboration; (2) improve local capacity to collect and share data; (3) reduce avoidable contact with the criminal justice system; and (4) build community care and services.

Alex Blandford and Emily Morgan | September 2020 | The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center

About the Authors


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Alex Blandford
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,
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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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    Emily Morgan
    Director of Content Development, Communications and External Affairs
    Emily Morgan provides strategic guidance and oversight for the conceptualization and production of the organization’s content, including publications, media relations materials, and web content. Previously, she directed a portfolio of special projects for the CSG Justice Center to support state
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    and local officials in advancing school discipline reforms and improving outcomes for youth and young adults in the justice system. Emily has more than 15 years of experience in justice, education, and youth development policy and practice, having authored a number of publications on these subjects. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center, she served as national policy analyst for Every Hour Counts, a coalition of citywide afterschool organizations, where she conducted federal advocacy and managed national grant initiatives to increase access to quality learning opportunities, particularly for underserved students. She also served as a program officer at the Institute of International Education. A former elementary school teacher, Emily received a BS in education from Vanderbilt University and an EdM in education policy from Columbia University.
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