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News Release
Stepping Up Initiative Aims to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails (Photo) - 05/16/18

Marion County Stepping up Initiative

“Stepping Up Initiative Aims to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails”

May 16 is Stepping Up Day of Action in Marion County

Marion County has long recognized the problems associated with incarcerating individuals in jail who suffer from mental illness. Most often these individuals have been arrested for relatively minor crimes such as criminal trespass or causing a public disturbance. Research and our own experiences have shown that incarcerating individuals with mental illness exacerbates their symptoms and increases the likelihood of their re-arrest for crimes. Once incarcerated, individuals with mental illness tend to stay longer in jail then those without mental illness and similar criminal offenses. Research has also found that on average the cost to incarcerate an individual with a mental illness or a mental health condition is two to three times higher than the costs associated with a person without a mental health condition. The vast majority of individuals with mental illness who have committed minor offenses can be safely treated in the community, instead of being incarcerated. This saves tax payer money and ensures that our jail and criminal justice system are used for those that pose the greatest risk to public safety.

With this in mind, Marion County, through the leadership and collaboration of our District Attorney, Board of Commissioners, Health Director, Sheriff, and local law enforcement have worked to create a system that identifies and diverts appropriate individuals suffering from mental illness away from the criminal justice system and into community treatment and care. This work is done through a number of robust partnerships and programs that assess, inform, and redirect individuals suffering from mental illness when they come into contact with the criminal justice system. The first touch point is law enforcement contact. Most law enforcement officers in Marion County have been trained in Crisis Intervention Training (CIT). CIT is nationally-recognized model that provides law enforcement officers with 40 hours of training and skill development to identify, de-escalate, and refer individuals with mental illness to various services within the county. Marion County also has three mobile crisis teams (a CIT trained Officer and mental health clinician who are partnered with one another) that can respond to a mental health-related law enforcement calls anywhere in the county. These teams look to use de-escalation techniques and community resources to redirect individuals from going to jail. To ensure services are provided at the first touch point of law enforcement contact, our Crisis Outreach Response Team reviews police reports from local agencies and follows up with individuals who have had police contact that may benefit from community based resources such as counseling, medical care, insurance, peer mentors, alcohol or drug treatment, or veterans services.

The second touch point is when individuals are booked into jail. All individuals booked into jail are assessed for mental illness. Information from these assessments is shared with mental health clinicians that work within the jail. The clinicians provide services to those with mental illness, as well as share information with a Deputy District Attorney who oversees charging regarding these individuals suffering from mental illness. While justice is at the center of any charging decision, this Deputy District Attorney is aware of the array of services available to individuals suffering from mental illnesses and the importance of getting an individual with mental illness connected to services in lieu of a jail custody setting.

It is important to point out the surrounding services that help support all of the efforts mentioned above. The Psychiatric Crisis Center is 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, 365 days a year drop in center for individuals suffering from a mental health crisis. Individuals can access a myriad of services from this center. Marion County Mental Health Court, Marion County Community Restoration program, Bridgeway Recovery Services, Marion County Health and Human Services Department, Northwest Human Services, Salem Free Clinics, and other various services have been developed to ensure many layers of support are provided to assist individuals at key moments.

The results of these combined efforts have been significant. Since strategies have been implemented, Marion County Jail bookings have maintained a downward trend from 19,165 in 2006 to 16,417 in 2017, Marion County’s usage of the Oregon State Hospital for misdemeanor offenses has been reduced from an average of 3.3 admissions per month in 2014 to 1.8 per month in 2017, diversion programs have increased the number of individuals in community restoration, and our criminal justice system is now able to focus its efforts on those who pose the greatest risk to community safety. Our community is stronger and safer when individuals with mental illness are connected to community-based services that provide focused care for them.

Image 1 From Left: Director Marion County Health Department Cary Moller, Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau, Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers

Image 2 From Left: Director Marion County Health Department Cary Moller, Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau, Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers, Marion County Legal Counsel Jane Vetto, Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron, Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson, Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano and Chief Administrative Officer John Lattimer.


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