U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

The Stepping Up Initiative: Reducing Mental Illness in Rural Jails

NCJ Number
Nastassia Walsh
Date Published
February 2016
16 pages
This paper presents examples of how rural counties have made progress in reducing mental illness in rural jails under the Stepping Up Initiative (SUI), which is a national initiative started by the National Association of Counties, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation in an effort to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.
More than urban and suburban counties, rural counties struggle in finding the financial and human resources to provide access to community mental health services, provide jail mental health services, and provide housing for residents with mental illnesses. This paper provides rural county leaders with ideas and strategies for addressing these challenges by presenting examples of counties that have succeeded or are in the process of meeting these challenges. County leaders are encouraged to learn from how other counties have addressed the challenges of addressing mental illness among rural county residents. Counties that have implemented individual programs or policies that address the number of people with mental illnesses in their jails have come to recognize that there are multiple points where changes must occur in order to have a significant impact on the challenges they face. This has led to the development of the Sequential Intercept Model, which provides a paradigm for thinking about the five intercept points where help is needed. These intercept points are law enforcement intervention, initial detention/initial court hearings, jails/courts, reentry, and community corrections. These are the points in the criminal justice system where changes are needed to impact the number of people with mental illnesses being admitted to and staying in rural jails.

Date Published: February 1, 2016