In recognition of May as Mental Health Month, OhioMHAS will join peers across the nation to celebrate the three-year anniversary of Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails with a Day of Action on May 16.
Stepping Up is a national initiative targeted at reducing the number of people with mental illnesses in jails. Without change, large numbers of people with mental illnesses (many with co-occurring substance use disorders) will continue to cycle through the criminal justice system, which can often result in missed opportunities to link them to treatment, tragic outcomes, inefficient use of funding and failure to improve public safety. The effort has seen remarkable progress, with more than 415 counties throughout the nation joining the movement by passing resolutions or proclamations to make this issue a top priority.
Stepping Up Day of Action activities will take place across the country to share progress and raise public awareness of the issues facing individuals with mental illnesses, particularly those who are involved in or at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system.
“Too many Ohioans with serious mental illness and substance use disorders are lingering in our jails— not getting the help they need,” said Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Tracy Plouck. “By supporting the Stepping Up initiative, Ohio counties are banding together to reverse the cycle of jails serving as de facto mental health hospitals in our state and connecting people with the help they need.”
Stepping Up is led nationally by the National Association of Counties, the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation. In Ohio, the Stepping Up initiative engages a diverse group of organizations, including those representing sheriffs, jail administrators, judges, community corrections professionals, treatment providers, people with mental illnesses and their families, mental health and substance use program directors, and other stakeholders.
“We are proud that Ohio has been a leader in Stepping Up,” said Retired Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton. “At the state level, we have a strong Steering Committee all working together to provide support and resources for our local counties. In the end, we will reduce our jail population, replace incarceration with treatment, and most importantly, improve the lives of those with mental illness by supporting them in recovery.”
Thus far, 41 Ohio counties have passed resolutions to join the effort and several of these counties are planning big events and promotions for the National Day of Action.
Learn more about their work on the Ohio Stepping Up web page: http://mha.ohio.gov/Treatment/Criminal-Justice-Involvement/Stepping-Up.
Lorain County will be conducting a CIT Officer of the Year awards event in conjunction with the Lorain County Commissioners Meeting on May 16. Stepping Up Member and County Commissioner Lori Kokoski will be presenting the CIT Officer of the Year Award to the selected Police Officer and will also give honorable mention to all other officers nominated. Melissa Myers Fischer, the coordinator of Stepping Up, will co-present with Stepping Up Chair Holly Cundiff (Lorain County Board of Mental Health and CIT Steering Committee) and we will present highlights of Stepping Up’s work over the past year.
Photo: Day of Action and CIT Officer recognition in Lorain County Commissioners Chambers, May 16, 2018.