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Alanna Tievsky

Policy Associate

New National Initiative Announced: Mental Health Disorders in Jails

December 4, 2014 | Justice | Comments
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The National Council has joined a new national initiative led by the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center to advance counties’ efforts to reduce the number of adults with mental and co-occurring substance use disorders in jails. On December 9th, 2014, U.S. Senators John Cornyn (TX-R) and Al Franken (MN-D), in conjunction with NACo and CSG, will host a congressional briefing to underscore the bipartisan commitment to prioritize this issue for the 114th Congress and highlight the new wave of national efforts aimed at reducing the overwhelming number of people with mental health disorders cycling through U.S. jails. Click here to register for the briefing.

What distinguishes this initiative is the coordination of state and local leaders to bring about system changes based on data-driven strategies. The initiative will focus on three key components:

  1. A Call to Action comprised of county and state leadership with a shared commitment to build a concrete, multi-step planning and implementation process to achieve measurable results in reducing the number of people with mental health and co-occurring disorders in jails that do not pose a public safety risk.
  2. Technical Assistance to counties and policymakers at all levels of government that facilitate Call-to-Action planning and implementation efforts to reduce the number of people with mental and co-occurring substance use disorders in jails
  3. A National Summit, in partnership with the American Psychiatric Foundation (APF), to convene teams of county leaders and stakeholders to advance implementation plans.

NACo and CSG have engaged a diverse group of partners with expertise in the complex issues at stake, including: sheriffs, jail administrators, judges, community corrections professionals and treatment providers, consumers, advocates, mental health and drug use service directors, and other stakeholders organizations. Although much of the initiative focuses on county efforts, states and local stakeholders will be engaged at every step to ensure legislative mandates, policies, and resource-allocation decisions do not create barriers to lowering the number of people with mental health disorders in jails.