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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

The Council of State Governments Governments and NACo Launch Stepping up Initiative

May 7, 2015 | Justice | Comments
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This week, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing joined leading criminal justice and behavioral health organizations in supporting the  Stepping Up Initiative, an unprecedented national collaboration designed to generate action in communities across the country for a common goal: to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in U.S. jails.

2 million individuals with serious mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, are admitted to jail each year, many of whom also have drug and alcohol addictions. Allowing these individuals to continually cycle through jails does nothing to improve public safety, stresses already strained budgets, and hurts people with mental illnesses and their loved ones.

The Stepping Up Initiative provides counties with clear direction for developing an action plan that makes effective use of budgets to facilitate access to treatment and promote appropriate alternatives to jail. County leaders embracing the initiative’s Call to Action are asked to pass a resolution committing to key actions, including collecting data to determine the extent of the problem within each jail, developing a plan with a team of diverse stakeholders that draws on sound research, and designing an approach to track progress. The initiative offers guidance and support to counties, including expert direction on collaborative planning and evidence-based practices.

“Through initiatives like Stepping Up and the 2014 Excellence in Mental Health Act, we have new opportunities to address the prevalence of people with mental illnesses and addictions in jails and advance our mission of ensuring all Americans have access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery,” said Linda Rosenberg, CEO.

Stepping Up is led by the National Association of Counties (NACo), the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center and the American Psychiatric Foundation (APF), with support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).