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San Luis Obispo County outlines plans for inmate mental health initiative

Posted at 6:50 PM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-07 01:21:06-05

The County of San Luis Obispo is making changes to reduce the number of people with mental illness behind bars.

San Luis Obispo joined the national initiative called "Stepping Up" three years ago. It was named an "Innovator County" by Stepping Up for its efforts to aid inmates that were struggling with mental health illness.

This week, supervisors addressed how they will continue to do that over the next three years.

San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson explained the county's goals.

"So that fewer people enter our jail and people that enter our jail are there for a shorter amount of time and that they get connected with services. We try to work over the long haul to keep them from coming back into the criminal justice system," he said.

"Specifically, to reduce the number of days they spend in jail, reduce the number of mentally ill people in jail, and once they are released from jail that they are connected with ongoing treatment services," added Anne Robin, SLO County Behavioral Health Director.

The plan includes 16 specific actions the county will take over the next three years to meet those goals. They include expanding the Behavioral Health Community Action Team and increasing the number of Mental Health Evaluation Teams.

In the County's 3 Year Strategic Plan they outline:

Four Key Measures of Stepping Up and Targets for Change:

1. Reduce the number of individuals who have mental illnesses booked into jail
2. Reduce the length of stay in jail for individuals with mental illnesses.
3. Increase the percentage of individuals with severe mental illnesses connected to treatment in the community upon release from jail.
4. Reduce recidivism rates for individuals with mental illnesses.

"It is extremely important that mental health services don't stop after individuals leave the jail. This is an effort going on in our county, every county in California, in every state," said Supervisor Gibson.

The county's goal is to reduce recidivism by at least 5% annually with this effort.