Douglas County Commission to receive update on effort to reduce jail stays for people with serious mental illness

Douglas County leaders will soon get an update on efforts to keep people with serious mental illness out of jail.

As part of its meeting Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission will receive a report detailing the number of bookings and other data for people with serious mental illness, or SMI. The data is being tracked as part of the county’s latest effort to reduce jail stays for people with SMI.

Douglas County joined the new multiyear initiative Set, Measure, Achieve in September 2020, as the Journal-World previously reported. Set, Measure, Achieve is the latest initiative from Stepping Up, which is a national project by The Council of State Governments Justice Center, the National Association of Counties, and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation that the county joined in October 2015.

As part of Wednesday’s meeting, Sheriff Jay Armbrister will present the booking and release data dashboard for the Douglas County Jail and the Stepping Up Initiative data dashboard. In a memo to the commission, Armbrister said the data dashboards would help the county measure its progress and be accountable for achieving goals set by the initiative. He said both dashboards were in their first version; the hope is to receive feedback from the community, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and national partners such as the Stepping Up Initiative and the Vera Institute to continue to refine the data.

The county’s goals this year go beyond just reducing the number of people with SMI in the jail. According to a previous county news release, the county has set a goal to reduce the average lengths of jail stays for people with SMI from 27 days to 25 days and recidivism from 66% to 62%. The county also was planning to establish a data collection process to track whether people had connected with the care they were referred to.

As the Journal-World has reported, Douglas County has implemented various programs that aim to keep those with SMI out of the criminal justice system, and in May 2019 it celebrated a 56% reduction in the number of people with serious mental illness booked into the Douglas County Jail from 2014 to 2018.

The County Commission will convene at 4 p.m. for its study session and 5:30 p.m. for its regular business meeting. The meeting will be open to the walk-in public at the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., but a link for the public to watch live online is available on the county’s website, Residents may also call in and listen by phone by dialing 1-312-626-6799 and entering meeting ID 916 0973 1363.


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