Johnson County Mental Health Center (JCMHC) is committed to support the work of the new Kansas ‘Stepping Up’ Technical Assistance Center, announced by Governor Laura Kelly’s office on Jan. 26. JCMHC has been dedicated to this national initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jails since its inception in 2015.
“We are encouraged by Governor Kelly’s announcement to take on this initiative as a state-wide priority,” said Tim DeWeese, JCMHC director. “We know the value of ‘Stepping Up’ for mental health locally and are committed to help other Kansas counties in any way we can to reduce the incarceration rate of the those with mental illness in our state.”
Nationally, the number of people with a mental health condition in jail is three to six times higher than that of the general public. In Johnson County, initiatives such as a brief mental health screening at the time of booking, a special court for veterans in need of substance use treatment, co-responders embedded within law enforcement agencies, new interagency collaborations and data sharing with the public have all contributed to its local success.
“These initiatives give people with mental health conditions the care they need,” says Johnson County Criminal Justice Coordinator Allie Dickinson, who works in the County Manager’s Office, “decreasing negative interactions with law enforcement, incarcerations and recidivism. We look forward to seeing similar results across the state of Kansas and are happy to serve as a resource.”
The national Stepping Up initiative is a collaboration between The Council of State Governments Justice Center, the National Association of Counties and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation. Johnson County was one of the first four counties to commit to the goals outlined in the initiative when it first launched in 2015. In 2018, Johnson County was one of seven counties in the nation, together with Douglas County in Kansas, to be named a Stepping Up Innovator County. This designation was given to counties considered leaders in the initiative that are committed to helping provide training and information for other counties.