County of Marin - News Releases - Behavioral Health in Jail

For Immediate Release
January 18, 2022

Mental Health Services for Jail Inmates Nets Award

Meaningful results borne from collaborative effort

San Rafael, CA – Marin County’s program to reduce the number of people with behavioral health disorders in its jail has garnered a prestigious award from the California State Association of Counties (CSAC).

The Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) earned a CSAC Challenge Award for its work enhancing behavioral health at Marin County Jail and the local justice system. It was viewed as innovative because of its collaborations with several County departments, community-based organizations, and individual stakeholders.

an exterior view of the front door and entry at the Marin County Jail.Since joining the Stepping Up Initiative in 2017, the County has taken significant steps toward reducing the number of people in its jail who have behavioral health disorders.

The recognition, announced January 3, comes just a few months after the County’s Stepping Up Initiative earned it national honors as one of the few Stepping Up Innovator Counties in the United States.

With an endorsement of the Marin County Board of Supervisors, the 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 and developed expertise in collecting data on inmates with behavioral disorders.

“We have always been committed to finding better ways to provide treatment and support for people who have mental and/or substance use issues and who are involved in the justice system,” said Dr. Jei Africa, Director of HHS’ Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. “It’s enough of a reward for us to know that the services have a positive impact on the clients, but it’s wonderful to receive such an award from CSAC, too. It’s satisfying to know that our approach can be replicated elsewhere so others receive behavioral health services rather than going to jail as a result of their condition.”

Marin uses 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 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.

“The Sheriff’s Office understands the importance of providing resources and rehabilitation to some of our most vulnerable populations,” said Undersheriff Jamie Scardina. “Our partnership with Health and Human Services has been instrumental in identifying those who can benefit from these services early on.”

As an Innovator County, Marin is helping other counties improve their data collection efforts by participating in training sessions and sharing its experiences through the Stepping Up website.

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