May 14, 2018
Colleen Clark-Bernhardt Manager of the Division of Policy and Practice 608-266-3022
County Board

Officials demonstrate ongoing momentum during a national “day of action”


Building on its pledge to keep the mentally ill out of jail, Dane County is recognizing a national “Stepping Up Day of Action” on Wednesday, May 16. 

Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails was launched in May 2015 by the National Association of Counties, the American Psychiatric Association Foundation and The Council of State Governments Justice Center. The idea was to rally local, state and national leaders to increase understanding and provide counties with the resources to further address this crisis.

The effort is designed to focus public attention on what policy leaders are calling a major challenge facing county governments across the country.

“Jails are the most expensive and least humane way to house and treat individuals with mental illnesses, most of whom can be safely served in the community,” said Dane County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan. “Finding opportunities to keep individuals who are not a risk to public safety in their homes while they receive appropriate treatment can only serve to help them get back on track.”

Studies have shown that 6.4 percent of men and 12.2 percent of women entering U.S. jails have a severe and persistent mental illness, compared to less than 2 percent of the general population.  Of those individuals, 72 percent have a co-occurring substance use disorder.

Dane County is moving forward in addressing mental health challenges and is dedicated to finding better solutions for our most vulnerable residents.  Recent actions include:

  • Stakeholders, community advocates, and officials participated in a national Sequential Intercept Model Training in January 2018.  https://cjc.countyofdane.com/

  • Dane County Department of Human Services issued a request for proposals reviewing the resources and gaps in mental health services.

  • Dane County sought out peer to peer learning opportunities to review best practices in innovative alternatives to incarceration.

  • In April 2018, Dane County was nominated to join the national Best Practices Implementation Academy— to support and collaborate with key stakeholders to reduce the over-incarceration of people with mental and substance use disorders in jails.

“As Dane County moves forward to replace our 60-year old antiquated jail and create overdue medical/mental health housing for those in the criminal justice system, it should be our long-range goal to establish sustainable community-based, data-driven mental health solutions that lower the overall numbers of people with mental illness entering jail,” said County Sheriff Dave Mahoney.

More than 425 counties nationwide have passed a resolution to join the Stepping Up initiative and committed to creating cross-system, sustainable plans to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in their jails. In addition to Dane County, 10 other Wisconsin counties passing resolutions including Ashland, Bayfield, Dunn, Eau Claire, Grant, Jefferson, Marathon, Milwaukee, Outagamie and Sauk.


Additionally, officials in Dane County have joined  with national  policy makers to assess criminal justice and jail reduction  strategies that are working in other communities.

“We are trying to look at best practices in other parts of the country,” said Corrigan. “This problem is solvable but will require a coordinated effort on all levels moving forward.”

Find out more at www.StepUpTogether.org.