Stepping Up Initiative
The Stepping Up Initiative is a joint effort supported by the National Association of Counties (NACO) and the American Psychiatric Association, to combat the epidemic of persons with mental illness in the prison system.
The number of people with mental illness in U.S. jails has reached crisis levels. In counties across the nation, jails now have more people with mental illnesses than in their psychiatric hospitals.
The human toll of this problem - and its cost to taxpayers - is staggering. Jails spend two to three times more money on adults with mental illnesses that require intervention than on those without those needs, yet often do not see improvements to public safety or these individuals’ health.
In Warren County’s case, with the reduction in beds at the State Hospital due to the Olmstead Act, as well as the closing of the Forensic Unit at the State Hospital, the County has seen an increase in severe mental health cases in our jail and criminal justice system in general.
Warren County also has an issue with drug and alcohol cases in our prison system, which it is estimated that over 80% of our inmates have charges related to drugs and alcohol.
In response to these issues, the County Commissioners have brought a resolution proclaiming the County’s support for the Stepping Up initiative. Similar resolutions have been passed by over 375 counties across the country and by passing on here, Warren County has become just the 17th County in Pennsylvania to adopt such a resolution.
Stepping Up asks communities to come together to develop an action plan that can be used to achieve a measurable impact in local criminal justice systems of all sizes across the country. This resolution is non-binding, and is simply a statement that we intend to make this effort a focus of the County’s administration
During initial meetings with local law enforcement, prison administration, criminal justice officials, and mental health providers we will be addressing the following questions which are the foundation of the Stepping Up initiative:
- Is our leadership committed?
- Do we conduct timely screening and assessments?
- Do we have baseline data?
- Have we conducted a comprehensive process analysis and inventory of services?
- Have we prioritized policy, practice, and funding improvements?
- Do we track progress?
In continuing this effort, a list of resources for thought leaders and interested individuals is provided, separated by category.
To address questions and concerns, please email Commissioner Jeff Eggleston or via phone by calling 814-728-3403.