The teams included mental health professionals, police and sheriff’s department personnel, and local elected officials. They hashed over ways to use data and break down organizational barriers to divert people with mental illnesses from the criminal justice system in the first place, treat those who must remain in custody, and find ways to connect them with mental health and other services in their communities after release from jail.
Working across disciplines was a key to the success of the Stepping Up Initiative, said APA President Renée Binder, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco.
“Everyone partnering together can make a difference,” said Binder, who called on the attendees to work not only on jail diversion in their own localities but to inform the public and lobby Congress to pass the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015.
Last evening, APA and the APA Foundation presented the first-ever American Psychiatric Excellence (APEX) Awards to seven people in recognition of their advocacy to reduce the number of Americans with mental illness in prisons and jails.
They included Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.; photographed above with Binder and APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A.); House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); Florida State Sen. Miguel Díaz de la Portilla (R-Miami-Dade); ABC and NPR news commentator Cokie Roberts; and three actors from the hit Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black”: Natasha Lyonne, Dascha Polanco, and Matt McGorry.
Full coverage of the Stepping Up Summit and APEX Awards event will appear in a future issue of Psychiatric News. For more in Psychiatric News on the campaign to end the overrepresentation of people with mental illness in America’s jails, see “Senators Urged to Break Cycle of Jailing People With Mental Illness.”
(Image: David Hathcox)