Douglas County joins new initiative to reduce jail stays, improve connections to care for those with mental illness

photo by: Chad Lawhorn

The Douglas County Jail, 3601 E 25th St., is pictured on April 7, 2020

Updated at 12:42 p.m. Thursday:

Douglas County has joined a new multiyear initiative that aims to measurably reduce jail stays for people with serious mental illness, or SMI, and to track their connections to care.

The “nationwide call to action,” called Set, Measure, Achieve, pushes for a 10% annual reduction in jail bookings of people with SMI and a 5% annual reduction in average length of stay, according to a news release from the county. It also calls for a 5% annual reduction in recidivism.

The county’s goals for 2021 are to reduce its SMI population in the jail by 1% from 9%, average lengths of jail stays from 27 days to 25 days and recidivism from 66% to 62%.

In addition, the county will establish a data collection process to track whether people connect with the care they’re referred to, according to the release.

Criminal Justice Coordinator Mike Brouwer said via email Thursday that he thought Douglas County could reach the ultimate goal of its prevalence rates being the same for people with SMI as for people without SMI.

Each measure will be reported to one of the county’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council work groups quarterly and annually to the entire CJCC, Brouwer said. The work group is also implementing a data dashboard that will be updated monthly and available to the public.

“We will set new goals each year until we achieve equity,” he said.

Set, Measure, Achieve is the latest initiative from Stepping Up, a national initiative 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 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.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

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Related coverage

Nov. 13, 2019: Council receives recommendations to reduce number of people with mental illness being booked into jail

May 14, 2019: Douglas County leaders call for further work on behavioral health, criminal justice

March 12, 2019: Failure to appear plagues those in Douglas County court system who have serious mental illness

March 7, 2018: Douglas County earns national recognition for reducing population of inmates with mental illness


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