Franklin County, Ohio has been selected as one of seven Stepping Up Innovator Counties in the United States for its expertise and innovation in collecting data on people in its jail with mental illness, and for working to ensure that those inmates are receiving appropriate care both inside and outside of jail. Stepping Up is a national initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jails across the country, and Franklin County is one of 425 counties in 43 states and representing 40% of the U.S. population that have committed to its goals. The initiative is a collaboration between The Council of State Governments Justice Center, the National Association of Counties, and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation.
“It’s part of our responsibility to ensure that the jail is being run as efficiently as possible,” said Board of Commissioners President, Kevin L. Boyce. “Data collection is a big part of that, and it’s another tool we can use to help people to succeed when they get out of jail.”
Seven counties across the nation have been designated as Stepping Up Innovator Counties, a recognition of work the county has already been doing as well as the first step in a new push from Stepping Up. As an Innovator County, Franklin County’s data collection efforts will be highlighted as part of this new initiative to help counties consistently identify and collect data on the jail population. The other Stepping Up Innovator Counties are Calaveras County, California, Miami-Dade County, Florida, Champaign County, Illinois, Pacific County, Washington, and Douglas and Johnson Counties in Kansas.
“About seven in ten inmates in our county jail are suffering from a mental illness and/or addiction disorder,” said Commissioner Marilyn Brown, who was board president when Franklin County joined the Stepping Up effort in 2015 and has championed the initiative. “Making sure that they get the treatment they need is the right thing to do, and will also help them to reintegrate into society and not return to the jail.”
As an Innovator County, Franklin County will help other counties improve their data collection efforts by participating in training sessions, taking part in presentations, and sharing information and their experiences through the Stepping Up Website, among other activities.
“Being picked as an Innovator County is an honor,” said Commissioner John O’Grady. “And it’s reflective of the hard work that our staff and the staff at the jail is doing to update our processes, improve data collection, and most importantly, act on the information we gather and the lessons we learn.”
Since joining Stepping Up, Franklin County has made significant inroads in mental health screening and connection to treatment, as well as focusing on alternatives to incarceration across the entire justice continuum. Last year, the county broke ground on a new correctional facility that will eventually replace the two current Franklin County jails. The new facility will utilize the Direct Supervision model of inmate supervision, a new inmate classification system that sorts inmates by risk rather than crime, and provide far more time and space for treatment and programing than the current jails permit.
For more information about Stepping Up, visit www.stepuptogether.org