Monday, Feb. 23 Reducing the Number of Individuals with Mental Illness in County Jails Who spoke? Patrick Fleming, director of behavioral health services (retired), Salt Lake County, Utah Gilbert Gonzales, director, behavioral health services, Bexar County, Texas Fred Osher, M.D., director of health systems and services policy, Council of State Governments' Justice Center What participants learned: Numbers don't lie.
And in Bexar County, Texas, the data on arrestees with mental illness or substance use disorder being diverted from jail has been impressive. It's also saving money. Today, about 2,200 nonviolent offenders per month are diverted from jail, Gonzales said. The county has a population of more than 1.7 million and a jail that can hold over 1,000 inmates. Starting in 2002, a group of stakeholders began meeting that included law enforcement, judges and local hospital systems, among others. Their goal was to decrease the number of mentally ill inmates by keeping them from becoming inmates, that is, evaluating their mental health or substance use issues at the earliest point of contact upon arrest and before booking. Police can refer them to a county Restoration Center, which can assess mental health needs and refer them to appropriate treatment. Each of the county's 5,000 law enforcement officers is required to take 40 hours of critical incident training.
A video about the restoration center's services (http://youtu. be/_7Pc8V-iXw0) is shown daily at police and sheriff 's roll call. Gonzales said the population that been successfully diverted to mental health services has a rearrest rate of 18 percent, compared to 34 percent for those not diverted.
Through a partnership between NACo and the Council of State Governments Justice Center, an initiative to scale-up this kind of approach is underway, Fleming said. He outlined six steps of the process: convene a team of county leaders, establish a benchmark against which to measure success, assess treatment and service capacity, develop a plan with measurable outcomes, use evidence-based practices and track data. "We want to establish a baseline count so we can come back to you with both the pretrial and the sentenced population and their composition and you can understand where the initiatives that you're sponsoring make a difference," Dr. Osher said. NACo and CSG will soon issue a call to action for counties that wish to commit to learning more about, and implementing, such measures.
Staff contact: Nastassia Walsh, 202.942.4289, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by David Hathcox
Dr. Fred Osher (l), Council of State Governments, responds to a question from a workshop audience member. Also pictured (l-r): Gilbert Gonzales, Bexar County, Texas; Pat Fleming, Salt Lake County, Utah; and Leon Evans, Bexar County, Texas.