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Stepping Up to Reduce People with Mental Illness in Jail

Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton met with Portage County leaders in mental health and criminal justice to discuss the Stepping Up Initiative, which is a national effort that has chosen Ohio as one of three model states for this effort.

The Stepping Up Initiative, being chaired in Portage County by Joel Mowrey, PhD, executive director of the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County, looks to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jail through a collaboration of local community partners from criminal justice, mental health, law enforcement, and administration.

Stratton is the co-chair of Ohio’s Attorney General’s Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Illness and Project Director for Ohio’s efforts, with the support of the Ohio Dept. of Mental Health and Addiction Services, among other state partners. The Stepping Up program will provide a brief assessment of where a county stands in terms of its progress on this issue, as well as online tools and assistance, grant information, training, and attendance at a team based state wide conference in June.

The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation, a private foundation in Hudson Ohio is sponsoring the Stepping Up Initiative and other efforts to reduce the number of people with serious mental illness in the jails. "We see this as an important focus in enhancing the lives of individuals and families experiencing mental illness. Decriminalization of this disease is a top priority of our work. We appreciate the energy of local partners making this happen," stated Thom Craig, Director at the Foundation.

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