Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

The Stepping Up Initiative is Reducing Mental Illness in Jails

Michigan State University elaborates in an article on how the national Stepping Up Initiative is helping to reduce the number of people in jails that are suffering from mental illnesses. The Stepping Up Initiative is led by the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Counties and the American Psychiatric Foundation. It was created to help counties redirect individuals with mental illnesses to treatment centers to receive the care they need and reduce jail populations. Currently, more than 500 counties in 43 states are part of the initiative. It is working to keep individuals with mental illnesses out of the justice system and provide them with the help they need.

A professor and her colleague at Michigan State University have been awarded a grant to study how the Stepping Up Initiative works and to determine what techniques can be used for treatment for individuals who suffer from mental illnesses. “Our primary goal is to learn more about how county agencies can work together to reduce the number of mentally ill people in county jails,” said Jennifer Johnson, a C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health at MSU College of Human Medicine.

Around two-thirds of jail populations have mental health problems and around three-quarters of them also suffer from substance abuse addictions. However, most jails are not equipped with the proper programs or treatment plans to treat those suffering from mental illnesses, as many of these individuals should not be in jail but rather mental health facilities. These individuals find themselves in jail after going off of their medication and acting erratically, leading to arrest. It creates a cycle of individuals being brought in while suffering from mental health issues, being put back on the street and then acting up or committing a crime, landing them back in jail again. This is where Stepping Up comes into play by helping jails find the right fit and facility for those suffering or in need of a mental health facility. This ultimately reduces overcrowding in jails and places people in correct facilities, where they can be treated in the hopes of helping keep them out of jail.