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Governor's Mental Health Diversion Council seeks input to help people with mental health issues with criminal justice diversion

LANSING, Mich. – Today wraps up a two-day summit to address statewide jail diversion efforts and align state efforts with national Stepping Up initiatives to reduce the number of individuals with mental health issues who are incarcerated.

The Mental Health and Criminal Justice Summit, hosted by the Governor’s Mental Health Diversion Council and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, is bringing together statewide leaders to raise awareness and seek methods to effectively move mentally ill individuals out of incarceration and into treatment where appropriate. 

“Michigan is leading the nation by bringing experts together to provide input on national and state initiatives that will help our communities and residents,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “I am proud of the bipartisan work across all branches of government to help us develop a sustainable roadmap to decrease the number of people with mental illness in our state’s jails and prisons, and direct them toward appropriate treatment.”

The summit at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Lansing aims to inform state leadership about jail diversion efforts on the national, statewide and local levels in an effort to build momentum toward being able to identify, treat and divert people with mental illness – thereby easing jail populations and helping to reduce the occurrence of the revolving door of decompensation, incarceration and hospitalization. 

"The opportunity to identify mental health needs and intervene early is key,” said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Mental Health Diversion Council chair. “We can keep communities safe by providing treatment to individuals with mental illness and co-occurring substance use challenges, and in doing so, we’ll ensure that our state's jails serve the right populations, while helping those who don't need jail to stay engaged in the right services and supports in the community. This summit is one of many steps that will continue to improve our policy and practices and guide our ongoing efforts statewide."

"Interventions to decrease the proportion of people with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders from jail are critical,” said Dr. Debra Pinals, MDHHS medical director of Behavioral Health and Forensic Programs. “Treatment and support for these individuals is necessary and best when offered within our community service system. We know that we need our partners in the justice system and the courts to make this happen in order to balance appropriate public safety factors as needed. We are delighted for this unique opportunity to gather cross-fertilization of ideas, planning and brainstorming."

Gov. Snyder signed Executive Order 2013-7, establishing the Governor's Mental Health Diversion Council, to address treatment needs and find ways to combat recidivism and the influx of persons with mental illness who are placed in jail or prison. The Council, in conjunction with MDHHS, hopes to move the needle further by sponsoring this summit and collecting feedback from those who come in contact with this population.

Attendees are being informed by the Council of State Governments on the national Stepping Up movement that encourages communities to sign resolutions that vow to bring agencies together and collectively find ways to reduce the jail population of persons with mental illness who would be better served through treatment. They will learn from Policy Research Associates about the Sequential Intercept Model and Strategic Mapping and how statewide pilot efforts through the Diversion Council are using this model to engage people with mental illness in the criminal justice system and divert them (when appropriate) with the goal of reducing recidivism.

Through this summit, stakeholders at all levels will be engaged to help develop a strategic plan for Michigan to take stock of current practice and develop strategies for needed next step.

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