Each year, an estimated two million people with serious mental health problems are admitted to jails across the nation – a rate that’s three to six times higher than that of the general public. Nearly three-quarters of these adults also have drug and alcohol use problems. Once incarcerated, individuals with mental health problems tend to stay longer in jail and upon release are at a higher risk of returning to incarceration than those without these issues.
Portage County has joined a growing national effort to reduce the number of persons with mental health problems who cycle through county jails. Joel Mowrey, PhD the executive director of the Mental Health & Recovery Board, Judge Barbara Oswick, Karen Cox of NAMI Portage County, Sheriff David Doak, and Commissioner Vicki Kline attended the Ohio Stepping Up Summit on June 16 where they learned how the national Stepping Up Initiative is bringing local criminal justice and behavioral health systems together to improve public safety, access to services, and treatment outcomes.
The Stepping Up Initiative, a national effort being chaired in Portage County by Mowrey, looks to reduce the number of people with mental health problems in jail through a collaboration of local community partners from criminal justice, mental health, law enforcement, and county administration.
“We continue to look for various solutions including prevention in the schools, training with police departments, and mental health & drug courts,” stated Mowrey.
“Ohio has been a leader in establishing mental health and veterans courts, developing Crisis Intervention Teams in law enforcement, and other efforts to reform the criminal justice system for persons with mental illness,” said retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, who is serving as project director of the Ohio Stepping Up Initiative.
The Mental Health & Recovery Board plans, funds, and monitors public mental health, addiction, prevention, and treatment services for Portage County residents. For more information call 330-673-1756 or visit www.mental-health-recovery.org