In 2016, Cabarrus County committed to becoming a partner of the national Stepping Up initiative. The initiative focuses on reducing the number of people with mental illness in jails. The concept of mental health overhaul is tremendous; however, acknowledging and responding to a problem that affects one of our own programs was a starting place.
According to the Stepping Up Initiative, two million people with serious mental illness are admitted to jails across the nation each year. Almost three-quarters of these adults also have drug and alcohol use problems. Once incarcerated, individuals with mental illness tend to stay longer in jail and upon release are at a higher risk of returning to incarceration than those without these illnesses.
Cabarrus County Department of Human Services employees a team (3 staff) that works with individuals both while incarcerated and post release. Staff work with justice involved persons from the point of when they are arrested and taken into custody, at which time detention officers perform medical screenings that Stepping Up staff review. Certain questions within the screening tool are designed to determine if an individual has a mental health or substance use disorder. When reviewing the screenings, staff determine which individuals might need additional follow-up and then takes them through a more detailed questionnaire. Staff analyze where that individual is currently in their mental health needs, and together they, staff and the justice involved person, design a treatment and transition plan.
As part of that plan, Stepping Up staff assist individuals with setting up appointments with treatment providers when they are released and follows up with them even after they’ve left the detention center to be sure they kept those meetings.