December 16, 2016, North Carolina Council on Community Programs kicked off its 2016 conference with a very informative pre-conference session on the community & LME/MCO role in reducing the number of people with mental illness in jail.  Information on the Stepping Up Initiative was presented from National, State, and Local perspectives.  There are about 28 North Carolina counties committed to implementing the Stepping Up program.  This is a great start, but we still have lots of work to do to get access to Stepping Up programs for every North Carolinian in need.

One of the days highlights was a presentation from Dr. Richard Cho, director of the Behavioral Health Division at The Council of State Governments Justice Center.  One part of his presentation gave a blueprint for county activists interested in jump starting a Stepping Up program:

A Common Framework for County Level Action

  1. Is your leadership committed?
  2. Do you have timely screening and assessment?
  3. Do you have baseline data?
  4. Have you conducted a comprehensive process analysis and service inventory?
  5. Have you prioritized policy, practice, and funding?
  6. Do you track progress?

Another highlight  was a panel of local county stakeholders from around the state who presented on the exciting initiatives they are and will be implementing at the intersection of mental illness and criminal justice.  Of the three counties represented, Durham had the most well developed program, including a comprehensive approach to ensuring the mentally ill are identified early in the jail experience and cross referenced with possible medical providers already involved with the individual, helping to create a continuum of care.   In October, we reported on a grant received by the Durham Sheriffs Department to help further implement the Stepping Up Initiative in Durham County.

If you are interested in helping your county join the growing movement toward better interactions between the mentally ill and the criminal justice system, visit The Stepping Up Initiative website or contact us for further information.