NEBRASKA CITY – After joining a national initiative this summer to reduce the number of mentally ill adults in U.S. jails, Otoe County commissioners agreed Tuesday to pursue a travel stipend to attend a national summit in Washington, D.C.
The National Association of Counties, State Governments Justice Center and American Psychiatric Foundation are sponsoring the summit on Reducing the Prevalence of Individuals with Mental Illnesses in Jails scheduled April 17-19.
Otoe County Attorney David Partsch said the county can benefit from the proper response to those in need of mental health services.
Partsch: “Our job is to keep the community safe and these individuals are not always appropriate to be in a locked jail facility when they could be receiving treatment on the mental illness issue that led them to break the law in the first place.”
Partsch plans to apply for the stipend to help pay travel costs for a five-member team he hopes will represent smaller counties at the Stepping Up Initiative summit.
He said small county’s do not typically have resources to provide mental health services, but could implement inmate screening programs to identify the mentally ill, who have not had previous referrals, before they are released.
Partsch: “Those individuals tend to repeat offend and end up right back in the jail. We’re trying to stop that recidivism and really get to the heart of the issue on stopping crime before it happens.”
The county passed a resolution in June joining the “Stepping Up” coalition, which is expected to determine the number of mentally ill in Nebraska jails and focus on reducing that number.