January 24, 2018
Colleen Clark-Bernhardt 608.266.3022
County Board

Criminal Justice Council meeting Thursday on mental health workshop results


As part of its ongoing commitment to reform the criminal justice system, Dane County officials are working to identify and respond to adults with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders to keep them out of jail.


Part of that involves using Sequential Intercept Mapping or “SIM” to identify existing community resources, service gaps and opportunities for improved service coordination and communication between mental health, substance abuse, and criminal justice professionals.


On Thursday, the Dane County Criminal Justice Council -- which includes District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, County Executive Joe Parisi, Sheriff Dave Mahoney and County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan – will get an update on recent efforts to use SIM in Dane County.  The council meets at 12:15 p.m. in Room 351 of the City County Building.


“Building effective strategies to avoid jail for our most vulnerable residents is key to Dane County’s future success; simply put it’s the right thing to do,” said Corrigan.   “We are looking at strategies throughout the system to better serve those who suffer from mental illness.”


Top agency administrators, staff and consumer advocates from the mental health, substance abuse, and criminal justice system in Dane County recently participated in a two-day SIM workshop which focused on improving collaboration across various systems and reduction of service barriers.


Sheriff Mahoney was among the workshop attendees and called it a step forward in identifying those who need professional help more than time behind bars.

“People with severe mental health issues should not be in jail,” he said. “I will continue to work with strong collaborative partners to build effective changes in our jail as well as our community response to mental health issues .”


During the workshop, participants developed a map detailing the flow of criminal justice contact from arrest to incarceration, referral and access to services, and points for diversion from the justice system. Strategies implemented by other U.S. communities were also considered. 


“It was great to see representatives across the mental health care and criminal justice systems come together and begin developing a comprehensive plan that ensures a community of care,” Lindsay Wallace, Executive Director of NAMI Dane County. “Discussion was rich and the group left with concrete action steps to continue the important work of diverting individuals with mental illness away from jail into community-based treatment. We look forward to continuing conversations and providing support to our many partners to make change happen at each intercept.”


Dane County collaborated with Policy Research Incorporated (PRI), which is considered a national leader for developing community-based solutions for people with mental illness who are involved in the criminal justice system.


“This workshop is a strategic planning session intended to foster systemic change and provide each participating community with the tools necessary to move forward to enhance services for adults with mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorders in contact with the justice system,” said Dr. Henry J. Steadman of PRI.


Funding for the PRI workshop in Madison came from the MacArthur Foundation. In 2016, Dane County was chosen as an “innovation site” for the influential MacArthur Foundation, which has also provided grant support for the Dane County Community Restorative Court.


“Policy Research, Inc. would like to thank the MacArthur Foundation for supporting the Sequential Intercept Mapping (SIM) in Dane County and also the many criminal justice and behavioral health professionals that participated in the workshop,” said Regi Hueter of PRI. “Participants identified priority areas that will make a difference in understanding where system changes are needed, identifying the risks and needs of those intersecting with the criminal justice system and how to best serve them.  We look forward to seeing how their efforts to identify mental health and substance use needs, as well as divert persons to services whenever possible, will improve outcomes for many of Dane County’s most vulnerable residents.”


Nationally, individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders are an increasing presence within the criminal justice system. 


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


Information on the workshop is available at https://policyresearchinc.org