For Immediate ReleaseNovember 10, 2021
Collaboration has resulted in meaningful steps
San Rafael, CA – Marin County was recently named to a select group of Stepping Up Innovator Counties in the United States that have committed to reduce the number of people with behavioral health disorders in its jails and develop expertise in collecting data on people in the jail who have behavioral health disorders.
Stepping Up was launched in 2015 between the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the National Association of Counties, and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation. It asks communities to collaborate on action plans to achieve measurable impact in local criminal justice systems of all sizes across the country.
“The goal is to find better ways to provide treatment and support to people experiencing mental illness,” said Dr. Jei Africa, Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services for the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “We would prefer to see people receiving behavioral health services rather than going to jail as a result of their illness.”
In its first six years, the Stepping Up Initiative has been adopted in 537 counties in 43 states. Marin County joined Stepping Up in 2017 and has taken the following significant steps toward reducing the number of people in its jail who have behavioral health disorders:
Marin was chosen as one of 34 Innovator Counties nationally that are using the Stepping Up-suggested three-step approach to collect and analyze timely data on the prevalence of people in their jails who have serious mental illnesses (SMI). The steps include establishing a shared SMI definition for their Stepping Up efforts across criminal justice and behavioral health systems, ensuring everyone booked into jail is screened for mental illnesses, and regular reporting on that segment of the population.
Supervisor Damon Connolly chairs the County’s Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Advisory Board, and Board President Dennis Rodoni has attended the board meetings regularly. Answering Stepping Up’s call to action has required commitments from Marin HHS, the Public Defender’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office, the Probation Department, the District Attorney’s Office, Marin County Superior Court, and community partners.
“I’m incredibly proud of the work Marin County has done to reduce the number of people in the jail with behavioral health needs,” Connolly said. “Establishing better systems of data analysis and communication is a vital component of being a Stepping Up Innovator County.”
As an Innovator County, Marin will help other counties improve their data collection efforts by participating in training sessions, taking part in presentations, sharing its experiences through the Stepping Up website, and more.
“We have the opportunity to help other communities engage in best practices, connecting their system of care with their criminal justice system to promote better outcomes for all,” Rodoni said.
Learn more about Marin’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services at www.marinBHRS.org.
Dr. Jei AfricaProgram DirectorBehavioral Health and Recovery Services, Department of Health and Human Services
20 North San Pedro RoadSan Rafael, CA 94903(415) 473-7595CRS Dial 711Email: Dr. Jei AfricaMarin HHS webpage