From Lincoln County Commissioners
At their October 5 meeting, the Lincoln County commissioners will consider joining the national “Stepping Up” initiative, designed to reduce the number of inmates with mental illness held in jails estimated to be up to two million nationwide.
“It’s a challenge in Lincoln County,” says Commissioner Bill Hall. “According to our jail staff, typically 30 percent of those in our jail have been treated for mental health issues and about 10 percent have a serious and persistent mental illness.”
According to “Stepping Up,” a partnership of the National Association of Counties, the Council of State Governments and the American Psychiatric Association, keeping mentally ill people in jail, especially those who are often arrested for minor crimes, is very costly. In addition, their incarceration does not improve public safety, and does not offer them the help and treatment they need.
Since the initiative was launched in the spring of 2015, more than 300 counties have signed on to date, including nine in Oregon. “We’ve already got some important pieces of a better solution in place,” said Hall, “including a jail inmate counselor, a Mental Health Court, and the coming launch of mental health mobile crisis services in the county. But there’s a lot more that can be done.”
The proposal comes to the Board of Commissioners with support from the county’s Mental Health Advisory Committee, Local Public Safety Coordinating Council, Samaritan Health Services and the Lincoln County School District. “It’s good to see broad recognition of how widespread the impact of this problem is on the community,” Hall said.
Commissioner Hall said there’s no guarantee that participation in Stepping Up will bring added resources to the county, but he’s hopeful, pointing out that mental health reform has become a high priority issue in both Salem and Washington, D.C. “Lawmakers at the state and federal levels see what we’ve been doing isn’t working,” Hall said. “People in just one segment of this population, are costing the state an average of $64,000 a year. The director of the Oregon Health Authority has acknowledged “We could provide someone with housing, treatment and supportive services for far less than that.”
More information about the initiative is available at www.stepuptogether.org