The County Rural Offices of Social Services Region is working collaboratively to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.

In the United States, more persons with mental illness reside in jail than in psychiatric hospitals. Because of this, 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.

Their mission was to rally local, state and national leaders to build awareness and provide counties with the resources to further address this crisis. Since the launch, 475 counties have passed a resolution or proclamation to join the initiative.

The Region is among the 475 counties participating in the initiative and is comprised of Ringgold, Decatur, Wayne, Clarke, Lucas, Monroe and Marion counties. The CROSS Mental Health and Disabilities Region was established in 2014 with a purpose of developing and delivering services to adults with mental health and intellectual disabilities to improve quality of life. Each county in the Region has signed a declaration to participate in the initiative.

Over the last year, the Region has made progress. This has included training law enforcement officers in Crisis Intervention Team training. The training model, developed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, brings together law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency departments and individuals with mental illness and their families to improve responses to people in crisis.

The training programs enhance communication, identify mental health resources for assisting people in crisis and ensure that officers get the training and support they need. To date, officers in Clarke, Decatur, Marion, Monroe and Ringgold have received this training.

Other progress has included providing Jail Re-Entry Services throughout our Region. Jail Re-entry staff provide referral information to those who would be unable to return home from incarceration without assistance/services.

The Region has implemented a 24-hour helpline, available to anyone struggling with challenges and needing a listening ear. The helpline is answered any time of day or night by a crisis counselor. They can be reached by calling 844-430-8520. Text services are also available at 800-332-4224. Online chat counseling can be accessed Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at www.foundation2crisischat.org.

The Region has also funded telepsych services provided by Integrated Telehealth Partners in hospital emergency departments and jails in participating member counties. They have also implemented the rural Assertive Community Treatment program. This treatment is designed for individuals living with mental health issues but for whom traditional outpatient services may not have been successful. CROSS Region provided a competitive grant to Resources for Human Development to establish this program. This service is currently funded by both the Region and Medicaid.

Trainings are also being offered to community members to improve awareness and response. Mental Health First Aid teaches members of the public how to help a person in the early stages of a mental health problem, experiencing escalation of a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis.

C3 De-Escalation is provided support to a person who may already be in crisis and unable to make rational decisions. The Region is also in the process of developing an Access Center. The Access Center will be located in Osceola and projected to open November 2019.