Local officials representing various Courts, not-for-profits, police departments and concerned citizens are in the process of developing recommendations that will improve interventions and divert individuals with mental health disorders from being disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system. The participants are using a process called the “Sequential Intercept Model or SIM” developed by the National GAINS Center in order to determine where and when opportunities exist for mentally ill offenders to be referred for assessments and interventions. Research demonstrates that individuals with severe and persistent mental illnesses spend two and three times longer incarcerated than the general population of inmates.
“There are many signals to a potential case involving someone with a mental health disorder during the course of a call to 911, through engagement by law enforcement, incarceration and reentry to the community”, according to Dave Schaffer, Executive Director of the ADAMHS Board. He says “We walked through a very structured process with the assistance of SIM trainers over a day and a half in order to look at five specific areas where we might improve screening and referral processes”.
Seana Todd-Fortune, the Reentry Coordinator at the Tuscarawas County Jail was charged with organizing the SIM process that included creation of a planning team and coordination of the various subcommittees that are each examining a point along the intervention process. According to Todd-Fortune “we’re examining closely the type of information available to us and trying to determine how best to use it. Beginning with 911 Dispatchers, police reports, jail and court data and reentry to the community”. According to Seana, five distinct subcommittees were created and are currently preparing recommendations on enhancing outreach on behalf of this population.
The committee reports will be presented to the larger group of members sometime in October where an implementation strategy, timeframes and outcomes will be discussed.