County of Marin - News Releases - Stepping Up Initiative

For Immediate Release
November 10, 2021

Marin Receives National Nod for Work with Mental Health Among Jail Inmates

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.

Artistic graphic says Stepping Up InitiativeThe Stepping Up Initiative is a nationwide campaign that started in 2015.

“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:

  • launched a behavioral health diversion program to provide treatment instead of incarceration to eligible individuals;
  • expanded specialty and collaborative court programs including Support and Treatment After Release (STAR) Mental Health Court, Adult Drug Court, and Veterans Court;
  • utilized an evidence-based behavioral health screening instrument for all individuals booked in jail, and;
  • participated in the Data Driven Recovery Project.

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


Dr. Jei Africa
Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services
Department of Health and Human Services

20 North San Pedro Road
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-7595
CRS Dial 711
Email: Dr. Jei Africa
Marin HHS webpage