Team attends National Summit

Post Date:04/29/2016 9:19 AM
April 22, 2016

National Summit Gathers Teams from 50 Counties to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails

WASHINGTON, D.C., and EAU CLAIRE, WI – A team of criminal justice and behavioral health professionals from Eau Claire County attended a two-day summit this week that brought together select teams from U.S. communities of all sizes as part of a national initiative to address the mental health crisis in our nation’s jails.

The Stepping Up Summit, which convened county and human services administrators, law enforcement officials, county elected officials, psychiatrists and other stakeholders from 50 jurisdictions across 37 states, was designed to give attendees a clear understanding of what constitutes a comprehensive, system-level plan that, when implemented, will reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jail.

The Eau Claire County team consisted of Joel Brettingen – Jail Captain, Diane Cable – Human Services Director, Gregg Moore – County Board Chair, Kathryn Schauf – County Administrator and Tiana Glenna – Criminal Justice Program Coordinator.

“Eau Claire County continues to be a leader in the nation by participating in national conversations that explore best practices designed to deal with the root causes of incarceration. The Stepping Up initiative is one such program, which seeks to decriminalize mental health. It is yet one more example of how Eau Claire County seeks to fulfill its’ stewardship role to improve individual lives, and build strong community” Kathryn Schauf, County Administrator.

At the two-day summit, county teams took stock of work already underway in their counties and chart a path forward. To that end, attendees considered six questions related to the commitment of local leadership, use of screening and assessments, the level of baseline data that currently exists, tracking progress and other items.

Stepping Up was launched in May 2015 as a partnership of The Council of State Governments Justice Center, The National Association of Counties, and The American Psychiatric Association Foundation. The initiative is designed to rally national, state, and local leaders around the goal of achieving an actual reduction in the number of people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders in jail. Over the past year, more than 250 counties, representing nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population, have passed resolutions to advance the goals of Stepping Up.

The progression of Stepping Up reflects a new agreement among county leaders across the country on one central truth: Jails should no longer serve as de facto psychiatric facilities. Many communities have already taken action to address the crisis locally, and many in the medical community have put its weight behind collaborating to effect change.

Despite the passionate commitments and efforts of many communities to make an impact, county leaders report there are more people with mental illnesses in jails than ever before, and the majority are not a public safety risk. The number of people with mental illnesses in jails is three to six times higher than that of the general public.[i]

As a result, local budgets are strained by jails spending two to three times more on people with mental illnesses than they do on people without those needs. The exorbitant cost to taxpayers to arrest, adjudicate, segregate, and supervise these individuals is having little-to-no impact in terms of public safety or public health.

Eau Claire County team members worked onsite to develop and evaluate plans to reduce mental illness in the local jail and walked away with a concrete set of priorities to take action and measure progress on their plans.

“To be one of 50 chosen from 200 applicants, Eau Claire County was honored to attend this informative and eye opening summit in Washington D.C.,” says Tiana Glenna, Criminal Justice Coordinator. “We are enthusiastic to begin using the tools that were provided to help reduce the number of incarcerated individuals in our jail that suffer from mental health illnesses.”

For more information about the Eau Claire County Stepping Up Initiative, contact Tiana Glenna at or by calling (715) 839-5106.

The Stepping Up Summit is made possible through the support of the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, which acknowledges the generous funding from Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson and Johnson, the Elizabeth K. Dollard Charitable Trust, Alkermes, and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. The Stepping Up Initiative is also grateful for the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.

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