APA Foundation Supports New National Effort to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in U.S. Jails

Tue May 05, 2015

For Information Contact:
Glenn O'Neal, 703-907-8640
Erin Connors, 703-907-8562

The Stepping Up Initiative Offers Counties Research-Based Support to Address a Growing Crisis and Create Measurable Change

ARLINGTON, Va. - The American Psychiatric Foundation today joins other leading organizations in supporting the Stepping Up Initiativ, an unprecedented national collaboration designed to generate action in communities across the country for a common goal: to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in U.S. jails.

Stepping Up is being led by the National Association of Counties (NACo), the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center and the American Psychiatric Foundation (APF), with support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

The number of people with mental illnesses in U.S. jails has reached a crisis level: 2 million individuals with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression are admitted each year, many of whom also have drug and alcohol use problems. Allowing them to continually cycle through jails does nothing to improve public safety, stresses already strained budgets, and hurts people with mental illnesses and their loved ones.

The Stepping Up Initiative provides counties with clear direction for developing an action plan that makes effective use of budgets to facilitate access to treatment and promote appropriate alternatives to jail. County leaders embracing the initiative’s Call to Action are asked to pass a resolution committing to key actions, including collecting data to determine the extent of the problem within each jail, developing a plan with a team of diverse stakeholders that draws on sound research, and designing an approach to track progress. The initiative offers guidance and support to counties, including expert direction on collaborative planning and evidence-based practices.

People with mental illnesses, their family members, and advocates, will play an important role in the Stepping Up Initiative by participating in the work ahead and encouraging partners in government to embrace the Call to Action.

“The American Psychiatric Foundation is proud to be a key partner in launching Stepping Up,” said APF Chairman Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “People with mental illness need and deserve treatment, not incarceration. This front-line effort advances our mission to ensure that all people with mental illness have access to appropriate care.”

The Stepping Up Initiative’s Call to Action is being introduced today at 12 p.m. (EDT) at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol. In response, events across the country are scheduled to demonstrate support for the initiative and to highlight effective efforts to address the high prevalence of mental illnesses in jails. Scheduled events will take place in Johnson County (Kansas) at the Johnson County Crisis Recovery Center (Date: 5/5; Time: 11 a.m. EDT); Miami-Dade County (Fla.) at the Children’s Courthouse (Date: 5/6; Time: 10:30 a.m. EDT); and Sacramento (Calif.) for the California State Association of Counties, on the north steps of the State Capitol (Date: 5/7; Time: 1:30 p.m. EDT). The events will also be available via live-stream broadcasts.

For more information and to join the Call to Action, visit https://stepuptogether.org/.

The American Psychiatric Foundation, a subsidiary of the American Psychiatric Association, works to create a mentally healthy nation by advancing mental health, overcoming mental illness, and eliminating stigma. Visit the APF at www.americanpsychiatricfoundation.org.

The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society whose physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses, including substance use disorders. Visit the APA at www.psychiatry.org.


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