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Stepping Up for Change: Portage County Tackles Mental Illness in Community and Jail

Portage County agency administrators, staff, and consumer advocates from the mental health, substance use, and criminal justice system participated in a 1.5 day workshop to develop strategies to effectively identify and respond to the needs of justice-involved adults with co-occurring mental and substance use disorders.

Sequential Intercept Mapping facilitated by Ohio’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence (CJ CCoE) is a workshop designed to help communities identify existing community resources, service gaps, and opportunities for improved service coordination and communication between mental health, substance use, and criminal justice professionals.

Leading the Portage planning committee were Dr John Garrity, Executive Director of the Mental Health & Recovery Board and the Honorable Patty Smith of Portage County’s Probate Court. During the workshop, participants developed a map detailing the flow of criminal justice contact from arrest to incarceration, referral and access to services, and points for diversion from the justice system across Portage County. Strategies for systems change implemented by other US communities were considered.

Nationally, individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders are an increasing presence within the criminal justice system. This problem is especially pronounced in rural communities, where the availability, accessibility, and acceptability of behavioral health services prevent many from receiving the help that they need. With more than 650,000 individuals returning to communities each year from US prisons and seven million individuals returning from jails, effective linkage and access to community services for people with a mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorder is critical to reduce an often-repetitious cycle of justice involvement.

Key agency staff and community leaders gathered for the workshop on mental illness and the criminal justice system in Portage County


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