NACo and CSG Announce Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Disorders in Jails

In collaboration with congressional leaders, the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center held a briefing and announced a bipartisan commitment to reduce the number of people with mental disorders cycling through jails. As announced in a joint CSG Justice Center and NACo Press Release:

 The centerpiece of the initiative is a “Call to Action,” in which county leaders commit to a concrete, multi-step planning and implementation process that is supported by state policymakers, behavioral health and criminal justice practitioners, and other stakeholders to help achieve measurable results. The Call to Action will be launched in spring 2015.

Technical assistance will be provided to help counties carry out the following activities:

  1. Engage a team of county leaders and decision makers from multiple agencies to reduce the number of people with mental disorders in jails that do not pose a public safety risk.

  2. Obtain prevalence numbers and assess needs to better identify adults entering jails with mental disorders and their recidivism risk, and use that baseline information to guide decision making.

  3. Measure treatment and service capacity to determine which policies, programs, and services may be able to minimize individuals’ contact or deeper involvement in the criminal justice system.

  4. Make a plan with measurable outcomes that draws on the assessment of the jail population and community capacity.

  5. Implement research-based approaches to carry out the plan, including both short- and long-term tasks that working groups can complete for the leadership team.

  6. Track progress using data or information systems and report on successes.

Stakeholders hope to reach their goals by improving access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, bolstering partnerships between criminal justice and behavioral health stakeholders, and advancing public safety goals.

“Jails should not be de facto mental health treatment facilities, and using them this way does not improve public safety,” said Sheriff Susan Pamerleau of Bexar County (San Antonio), TX, and a representative of the Major County Sheriffs’ Association. “There are better ways to address this national issue to ultimately reduce costs, improve lives and provide hope.”

For more information read the full joint CSG Justice Center and NACo Press Release.