The Stepping Up initiative recently celebrated 500 counties joining the national movement to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.
Four years ago, The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, the National Association of Counties (NACo), and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APA Foundation) launched Stepping Up in response to a public health crisis: the disproportionate number of people in jail who have mental illnesses.
The human toll of this problem—and its cost to taxpayers—is staggering. Jails spend two to three times more money on adults with mental illnesses that require intervention than on those without those needs, yet often do not see improvements to public safety or these individuals’ health. Although counties have made tremendous efforts to address this problem, they are often thwarted by significant obstacles, including operating with minimal resources and needing better coordination between criminal justice, mental health, substance use treatment, and other agencies. Without change, large numbers of people with mental illnesses will continue to cycle through the criminal justice system, often resulting in tragic outcomes for these individuals and their families, missed opportunities for connections to treatment, inefficient use of funding, and a failure to improve public safety.
These Innovator Counties are demonstrating that this type of
data collection is critical and feasible—from rural to urban counties whose populations range from 22,000 to 2.6 million. Other counties that are already using or are committed to using this approach are encouraged to contact Stepping Up at firstname.lastname@example.org about joining the Innovator County cohort.
What is happening now: