CSAC Helps Kick Off “Stepping Up for Mental Health” Initiative
CSAC hosted a news conference on the steps of the State Capitol
this week to help draw attention to the number of mentally ill
inmates in county jails. It was one of several similar events
held across the country this week to kick off the Stepping Up for
Mental Illness initiative, sponsored by the National Association
of Counties (NACo), the Council of State Governments Justice
Center, and the American Psychiatric Association (APA.) The goal
is to find ways to provide treatment and other alternatives for
people with mental illness.
“You will not find a sheriff in this state or this nation who is not struggling with the growing number of people who are mentally ill in our jails,” said Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. The statistics agree. More than 2 million adults with serious mental illnesses are admitted to county jails nationally each year. Once incarcerated, people with mental illnesses tend to stay longer in jail and are at a higher risk of re-incarceration than individuals without these illnesses. Jails spend two to three times more on people with mental illnesses than they do on people without those needs.
“The additional time and resources devoted to these individuals strain budgets and burden taxpayers while not doing enough to improve individual outcomes or public safety” said CSAC Executive Director Matt Cate. “Reducing the number of mentally ill in the criminal justice system by providing responsible alternatives can save money, reduce recidivism, improve public safety and provide better outcomes for the offenders.”
State Senator Robert Hertzberg spoke at the conference. He is carrying legislation to clarify that more types of programs are eligible for Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction (MIOCR) grants. Many California Counties have applied for these funds and the national Initiative is designed to spotlight programs like MIOCR grants. “Individual counties like many here in California have already been stepping up to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails and providing effective, community-based treatment for people with these needs” said this year’s NACo President Riki Hokama, a Maui County Commissioner.
“By providing opportunities for counties and states to learn from each other’s successes and sharing tools and resources from the experts, Stepping Up is going to help county leaders from across the country to reduce these numbers.”
Probation Chief Mack Jenkins from San Diego County also participated in the news conference, as did former State Senate President pro Tem and mental health activist Darrell Steinberg and President Elect of the APA Dr. Renee Binder.