JOHNSON COUNTY MH/DD JAIL ALTERNATIVES PROGRAM MARKS 1-YEAR OF OPERATION
12 September 2006
The Johnson County Board of Supervisors has accepted the first annual report on the County’s MH/DD Jail Alternatives Program and voted unanimously to move the program from pilot to permanent status. Dr. Mindy Lamb, Johnson County’s Mobile Crisis Coordinator, reported that the Jail Alternatives program has worked with 107 individuals during its first year of operation. Of these 107 individuals, 34 have been alternatively placed or released from jail and placed in mental health treatment. Another 17 individuals on probation, parole, or re-entering the community from prison have been served by this program. While difficult to measure at this early stage, recidivism rates appear to have decreased significantly during the initial months of this project.
This program was developed in response to a failed jail bond issue and the emerging need to address both limited space and mental health issues in the jail. The Board of Supervisors and their appointed Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee worked collaboratively with the Johnson County Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities Department, the Sheriff’s Department, and the County Attorney’s Office, as well as representatives from local law enforcement, the courts, criminal justice and correctional services, advocacy groups, consumers, and both mental health and substance abuse providers to develop and implement a Mental Health Jail Alternatives program. Funding for the program was approved as a component of the Johnson County MH/DD Services budget.
This project was also awarded a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. In July 2005, approximately 50 representatives from the local constituencies identified above attended a 2-day Jail Diversion training. This training was designed to assess community needs and develop goals to measure progress.
Mental health professionals identify inmates who may be appropriate for treatment as an alternative to incarceration. These individuals are professionally evaluated and must meet established mental health and legal criteria. All parties including prosecutors, courts, and defenders must agree to the alternative placement.
MH/DD Jail Alternatives staff members work with community-based services to identify appropriate treatment plans, coordinate services and funding streams, then monitor program compliance. Jail Alternatives staff also work with individuals who are on probation and parole and are re-entering the community from prison.
While the benefits of this program are multi-faceted, the program was designed to meet two specific needs:
- Appropriately assess and serve the mental health needs of persons in the criminal justice system, and
- Relieve the issue of jail overcrowding by diverting the appropriate individuals to alternative placementsand reducing recidivism.
Benefits realized are both social and financial. By addressing the mental health needs of the community, the incidents of criminal activity are being reduced in number and severity while the cost of prosecuting and jailing offenders is reduced. Persons with mental health issues are being seen less in the criminal justice system and more appropriately in the service delivery system.
Submitted by Mindy Lamb, PhD, LISW
Johnson County MH/DD Mobile Crisis Coordinator 319-339-6169 (ext 378)