The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) celebrated “Seven Years of Stepping Up” this September. Funded by BJA, Stepping Up is a partnership between the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, the National Association of Counties, and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation. The initiative seeks to reduce the over-incarceration of people with mental illnesses in the nation's jails. BJA Director Karhlton F. Moore provided the keynote address at the virtual celebration.
"Overincarceration comes at a high cost to our communities. The impacts of incarceration overwhelm resources and systems—our homeless shelters, behavioral health clinics, hospitals, social services, and more—limit a community's ability to provide quality care and promote well-being for everyone." — BJA Director Karhlton F. Moore
Stepping Up seeks to reduce incarceration and reincarceration, respond effectively to people in crisis, and ultimately prevent contact with the justice system. Stepping Up planning and implementation are designed to meet counties where they are, allowing them to select the best strategies for their local context. This flexibility means that success will look different in each community.
For example, in Fairfax County, Virginia, the Merrifield Crisis Response Center provides emergency psychiatric services to people experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Since 2016, over 2,800 people with mental illness have been diverted from potential arrest.
Many miles away, in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, the county employs eight co-responders that work with eight local police departments. In 2021, co-responders were involved in 1,998 referrals from police officers. Of those referrals, only 121 resulted in charges.
More than 550 counties that have joined this national movement have been able to implement jail-based metrics that reflect the impact of their community's efforts. BJA celebrates their efforts and offers grant funding to any county through the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program to plan and implement the Stepping Up goal to reduce the number and prevalence of people with serious mental illness in the nation’s jails.
To learn more about this initiative or to view the Director's message, visit the CSG Justice Center website.