Progress on Jail Diversion Facility
The Mental Health & Public Safety Team’s work advocating for a Jail Diversion Facility to move people in mental health and substance use crises out of jail and into treatment over the past two and half years has paid off!
When we last sent an update, the team was busy building relationships and working with other stakeholders in the criminal justice system in order to have the Facility included in the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council’s MacArthur Foundation grant application.
The good news is that the Council won the grant. They've also made creating a Jail Diversion Facility one of their top priorities for 2017!
An interagency charter team has been created that includes staff from the Jail, Spokane Regional Support Network, Spokane Police Department, Spokane Housing and Human Services Department, and the Sheriff.
The Spokane Alliance’s Mental Health & Public Safety Team’s Co-chair, Jim Dawson, Fuse, was appointed as the community representative to the charter team. He comments:
“The broad consensus for the need for the facility within the criminal justice system is a testament to our relational approach to organizing and the persistence of the Spokane Alliance and our friends in the Smart Justice Coalition.”
The charter team has been meeting for the past month on a weekly basis and is moving quickly to draft a plan that includes a proposed site, a budget, and who would qualify for the facility.
Since the Mental Health & Public Safety Team has successfully gained agreement that the facility is needed, the job now is to make sure a good plan is created by the charter team and that funding is found.
To that end, the team’s current goals are to support the work of the charter team through additional research and outreach as needed and to advocate with elected officials as needed.
How can you help?
Keep informed! Join the Mental Health and Public Safety Team email list and possibly add your leadership to meetings. Contact Carol Krawczyk-Prichard for more information.
The Mental Health & Public Safety team pulled together in 2014, specifically in response to the Spokane Alliance community’s concerns about hearing increased reports of the mentally ill being shot by police (our firefighters are many times called in as first responders in these cases) and seeing a rise in mentally ill participants in our churches’ emergency services.
Spokane Alliance leaders formed a research action team of 20 members from diverse institutions: church members, medical students, Fuse members, nurses, and firefighters.
Delving into some of the reasons behind these incidents, they honed in on one, a vicious cycle: people who are having a mental health and or substance abuse crisis that commit a crime are often jailed. This jail stay can result in their Medicaid being canceled. When they are let out of jail, there is a gap in their medical coverage. They don’t get treatment or medicine that they need for their condition and end up unstable and more likely to commit another crime.
The leaders also discovered a possible solution: jail diversion facilities. If someone commits a minor offense, they can voluntarily agree to go to such a facility and accept treatment for their condition in return for getting their criminal charges dropped.
The facilities have many advantages:
- They save public dollars, keeping people out of the costly and overcrowded legal and criminal justice systems.
- They are better equipped to handle people in crisis allowing them to get stabilized in a therapeutic environment.
- Participants don’t lose access to Medicaid and are connected to treatment for their conditions.
Jail diversion facilities are being pioneered across the country and in Washington in Yakima and King County.