Region 6, Counties Launch Stepping Up Initiative

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Across the nation, an estimated 2 million people with serious mental illnesses are booked into local jails each year.  Recognizing the need to improve mental health services to those in the criminal justice system has sparked both national and local interest.   Region 6 Behavioral Healthcare and several counties in our region are launching ‘The Stepping Up Initiative’ to better understand and begin to improve services for this population.   Region 6 recently hired a Director of Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Initiatives to spearhead this work in our area.  Below is a brief description of the new initiative.

“Stepping Up” is a national initiative designed to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in U.S. jails. Without change, significant numbers of individuals with mental illnesses will continue to cycle through the criminal justice system, often resulting in missed opportunities to effectively link them to the treatment and services they need.  Through the combined efforts of the National Association of Counties, the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the American Psychiatric Foundation, the “Stepping Up” initiative calls for action in communities across the country for a common goal: to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in U.S. jails.

On November 8-9, 2017, a Douglas County Criminal Justice-Behavioral Health meeting was convened by Region 6 Behavioral Healthcare. Policy Research Associates introduced the sequential intercept model in order to identify the places or “intercept points” along the criminal justice continuum where contact with those who suffer from mental illness occurs and where appropriate intervention can take place.  The collaborative was attended by a myriad of stakeholders representing the Douglas County Commissioners, the Douglas County Attorney’s Office, The Douglas County Public Defender’s Office, the Omaha Police Department, Douglas County Sherriff’s Department, Douglas County Department of Corrections, consumers, mental health and substance abuse providers, the Department of Veteran Affairs, NAMI Nebraska and others. Priorities identified during the sequential intercept mapping include increased utilization of mobile crisis response and addition of a co-responder model; improved coordination and expediting court processes; timely medication management appointments upon discharged from corrections; and improving release/discharge processes from jail.

The collaborative work in Douglas County will focus on strengthening practices and implementing strategies that work with an eye on four key measures:
1. Reducing the number of people booked in to jail with behavioral health disorders.
2. Reduce the length of time people with mental illnesses stay in jail.
3. Increase connections to community-based services and support.
4. Reduce the number of people returning to jail.

For more information on The “Stepping Up” Initiative, visit www.stepuptogether.org.

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