Stepping Up in Muskegon
Center for Behavioral Health and Justice (CBHJ) team members, Leonard Swanson (above left), and Edita Milanovic (right), work shoulder-to-shoulder with Natalie Walther (center), Data Architect and Analytics Manager for HealthWest, Muskegon County's Community Mental Health agency in developing an integrated report to track the county's progress with Stepping Up.
Under a grant funded by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CBHJ team, led by School of Social Work Dean Sheryl Kubiak, is providing technical assistance to counties across the state that have committed to Stepping Up, a national initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails. Based on the framework of the national initiative, the technical assistance provided by the CBHJ assists local stakeholders in affirmatively answering Six Questions: 1. Is your leadership committed?, 2. Do you have timely screening and assessment?, 3. Do you have baseline data?, 4. Have you conducted a comprehensive process analysis?, 5.Have you prioritized policy, practice, and funding?, and 6. Do you track progress?
The CBHJ has worked collaboratively with Muskegon County stakeholders since April 2018 to map the county jail process, establish baseline data, and analyze current processes for the identification, referral, and provision of services to individuals entering the county jail with mental health concerns. This work has allowed county stakeholders to address barriers and gaps and improve their system by strategically realigning existing resources, engaging new stakeholders, identifying new processes and resources, and prioritizing funding as necessary.
The last step in the CBHJ's technical assistance process involves the development of a report for the county stakeholders to regularly track progress of four key measures including jail bookings, jail length of stay, treatment engagement, and recidivism. Though such a report is key to effectively monitoring progress, it requires the integration of jail and treatment data, a level of integration rarely accomplished due to data system incompatibility, limited resources, and lack of capacity. The work of the CBHJ, in concert with the efforts and commitment of Muskegon County behavioral health and criminal/legal stakeholders, shows that focused and purposeful collaboration can result in measurable success.