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Across the nation, counties are recognizing best practices for reducing the number of people with mental illness in jail are a win-win for county taxpayers, those who are suffering from these disorders and for those who work to maintain a safe and healthy environment in a jail setting. On Monday, Cleveland County became one of a handful of Oklahoma counties to pass a Stepping Up resolution to commit to reducing the number of people with mental illness in the county jail. According to the Stepping Up website, Cleveland County may be only the third in the state to adopt this resolution with the other two being Grant and Tulsa counties. “This resolution shows our commitment to a healthier county and jail environment,” said County Commissioner Darry Stacy. “We were happy to support the sheriff who administers the jail and brought this initiative to us.” Recognizing the critical role local and state officials play in supporting systems change, the National Association of Counties (NACo), the American Psychiatric Association Foundation and The Council of State Governments Justice Center launched the Stepping Up initiative in May 2015. Stacy, who chairs the National Association of Counties (NACo) Homeland Security and Emergency Management Committee, knows the value of the collective experience of NACo as it unites counties across the nation to improve services through local governmental actions. “The rate of mental illness is much higher in the jail community than in the general county population,” said Sheriff Todd Gibson. “This creates a risk for the incarcerated individual as well as for jail staff. While we have increased mental health services at the Cleveland County detention center, we recognize that mental illness is not a crime and that those who act out because of mental illness are better served through treatment in a mental health facility or through appropriate out-patient services.” Judge Michael Tupper, who runs the Cleveland County Mental Health Court, was on hand at Monday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting in support of the Stepping up resolution. “What we are learning in the justice system is the need to re-evaluate some of our systems to help better link people to treatment and services while improving public safety in fiscally responsible and effective ways," Tupper said. "This resolution stands as a call for partnership and collaboration between public, private and non-profit stakeholders in implementing evidence-based strategies that can lead to measurable reductions in the number of people with mental illnesses and co-occurring disorders in jail.” From law enforcement, county leaders and judges to public defenders, community-based service providers, advocates and prosecutors, reducing the number of people with mental health issues in jail requires a team effort. “We have a great group of people all working toward the same goal in Cleveland County with regard to mental illness and reducing those numbers in our jail,” Stacy said. Gibson said the support of county commissioners, judges and the District Attorney’s Office have allowed the county to make strides in the right direction. “We are proud to be on the cutting edge in implementing innovative programs that are evidence-based and save taxpayer dollars along with transforming lives, and we couldn’t do that without the full support of the county commissioners and stakeholders in the county judicial system,” Gibson said. To download and read the Stepping Up Resolution adopted by Cleveland County click here.