May 7th, 2018
Writer/Contact: Pat Matlock, Chief Criminal Deputy
Pacific County Sheriff’s Office
(360) 875-9398 or firstname.lastname@example.org
PACIFIC COUNTY, WASHINGTON—MAY7th , 2018—Pacific County was selected as one of seven Stepping Up Innovator Counties in the United States for its expertise in collecting data and using it to improve systems of care for individuals with mental illness in the Pacific County Jail.
Millions of times each year, people who have mental illnesses are booked into jail across the country. The number of people who have mental illnesses in jail is three to six times higher than that of the general public, and housing people with mental health needs in county jails strains local budgets. However, many counties face challenges in counting how many people in their jail have a mental illness, making it difficult for county leaders to track progress and to develop a comprehensive plan to address the problem.
As an Innovator County, Pacific County’s efforts will be highlighted as part of a new push from Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails. Pacific County will help other counties throughout the nation, improve their data collection efforts by participating in training sessions, taking part in presentations, and sharing information and their experiences through the Stepping Up website, among other activities. The seven initial Stepping up Innovator Counties are: Calaveras County, CA; Miami-Dade County, FL; Champaign County, IL; Douglas County, KS; Johnson County, KS, Franklin County, OH; and Pacific County, WA.
Sheriff Scott Johnson stated, “I am proud of the hard work put forth by core team members Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Matlock, Justice Mental Health Collaboration Program Coordinator Rosanne McPhail and Pacific County Health and Human Services Deputy Director Katie Lindstrom. The three teamed up over two years ago to launch an effort that’s beginning to transform Pacific County in profound ways. Stepping Up is a national effort to transform the way we deal with people with mental illness and substance use disorders in the justice system and specifically in our jail but its’ impacts are even more far-reaching
Stepping Up was launched in May 2015 by The Council of State Governments Justice Center, the National Association of Counties, and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation. Since that time, more than 425 counties—including Pacific County—in 43 states, representing 40 percent of the U.S. population, have committed to the Stepping Up goal.
Pacific County joined Stepping Up in 2015 and has taken significant steps toward reducing the number of people who have mental illnesses in their jail, including establishing a jail based substance use treatment program, developing a mental health diversion program, and hiring a jail based case manager who coordinates service referrals and assists inmates with re-entry planning upon release.
In addition to new programming, the initiative has also strengthened collaboration among local criminal justice and behavioral health providers. According to Matlock, “Regular communication and joint planning has resulted in a more effective and efficient use of public resources when dealing with individuals with mental health disorders. The work benefits both the individuals with mental illness by providing avenues to get appropriate help in lieu of incarceration, and also results in a more prudent use of our limited criminal justice resources, namely, the Pacific County Jail. We’ve made great progress in just a short time, yet our work has just begun. The tremendous level of buy-in among partners and stakeholders encourages us greatly. And, it’s been both validating and sad to hear from people who are aware of this work and tell us how much it is needed”. Sheriff Johnson added, “We have heard too many stories of families, careers and lives shattered by mental illness and addiction. Sometimes it’s a co-worker, sometimes it’s a neighbor, sometimes it’s a family member. Families and communities everywhere have suffered far too long. It’s up to us as citizens to step up and finally end the cycle of damage and begin to heal”.
ABOUT THE STEPPING UP INITIATIVE
Stepping Up is a national initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails. The initiative—a collaboration between The Council of State Governments Justice Center, the National Association of Counties and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation—asks communities to come together to develop an action plan that can be used to achieve a measurable impact in local criminal justice systems of all sizes across the country. For more information visit https://stepuptogether.org.