This report presents the results of Pennsylvania’s statewide policy scan under the federal Stepping Up Initiative (SUI), which focuses on addressing the issue of a high number of people with serious mental illnesses (SMI) cycling through local criminal justice systems.
The state policy scan is supported by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to assist states in working with communities to identify solutions that will reduce the number of individuals with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance-use disorders in local justice systems. The scan can guide an assessment of a state’s policies and develop actions that can assist local communities in addressing this issue. One priority area in Pennsylvania’s policy scan was to improve local capacity to collect data and share information. The recommendations in this policy area focus on a combined approach of improving strategies to identify the target population by improving the capacity of personnel and technology to collect and analyze metrics and share information across systems and agencies. The second priority area in the scan was to increase local diversion as early as possible. The focus of the scan was on encouraging the state to support, expand, and improve programs that divert people with SMI as early as possible in their contact with the criminal justice system and ensure the quality of diversion and treatment options for people charged or convicted. The third priority area of the scan was to increase local availability of and connections to housing. The scan identified housing as a key barrier to achieving better criminal justice outcomes in nearly every interview conducted for the scan. Recommendations focus on improving cross-system collaboration, additional investment in evidence-based housing models, leveraging Medicaid for pre-tenancy and tenancy services, and minimizing state and local barriers to housing.