EATON — The Preble County Board of Commissioners, along with Sheriff Mike Simpson and Preble County Mental Health and Recovery Board Executive Director Amy Raynes, met with Justice Evellyn Stratton with the Stepping-Up Ohio Initiative via Zoom, Monday, Oct. 17.
Justice Stratton explained the initiative was started by a sheriff and group of commissioners who realized their jailhouse was acting as a “de facto hospital” for individuals struggling with mental illness. The officials realized they were not trained or prepared to care for these individuals, and sought a remedy to the recurring problem.
“They have gone on and done amazing things since (creating) Stepping-Up. They built a new jail and credit how they reformatted and restructured the whole jail setting because of Stepping-Up’s recommendations,” Stratton said.
Stratton explained Stepping-Up provides a wide array of resources to enable local law enforcement to better handle repeat offenders with mental illnesses, as well as methods to attempt rehabilitating them. Stepping-Up also holds frequent webinars sharing the newest information on mental illness, as well as information on grants and available funding for law enforcement and county departments concerning mental illness.
“Although we have government partners, we’re not from the government. There’s no mandate. We just try to bring you resources,” said Stratton.
Sheriff Simpson clarified that the main focus of the Stepping-Up program is addressing and reducing mental illness within correctional facilities. Stratton added, the program “spreads a little further than” jailhouses by assisting with housing and crisis center resources.
“Most of these people are not bad people,” stated Stratton, expressing the aim of Stepping-Up is to reduce incarceration for those struggling with mental illness, and instead provide solutions for the problem, as well as eliminating trauma undergone by victims of mental illness.
The board is currently considering joining the Stepping-Up Ohio Initiative.
According to ohio.gov, “The Stepping-Up Initiative is a national initiative targeted at reducing the number of people with mental illnesses in jails. Without change, large numbers of people with mental illnesses (many with co-occurring substance use disorders) will continue to cycle through the criminal justice system, often resulting in missed opportunities to link them to treatment, tragic outcomes, inefficient use of funding, and failure to improve public safety. The Stepping-Up initiative brings together a diverse group of organizations, including those representing sheriffs, jail administrators, judges, community corrections professionals, treatment providers, people with mental illnesses and their families, mental health and substance use program directors, and other stakeholders.”
For more information regarding Stepping-Up Ohio, visit stepuptogether.org.
Reach Nathan Hoskins at 937-683-4057 and follow on Twitter @NathanHoskins13