In 2017 the Region V+ Adult Mental Health Initiative embarked on an effort to address the growing number of people entering correctional settings with serious mental illnesses. The six county boards of Region V signed resolutions with the Stepping Up Initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in their jails and funded by a grant from Sourcewell, the Comprehensive Re-Entry Project (CRE) launched in the summer of 2018.
The CRE is a partnership with health and human services, law enforcement, corrections, county attorneys, public defenders, probation and community-based crisis and treatment providers from Region V+: Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd, Wadena, and parts of Leech Lake and Mille Lacs Tribal jurisdictions. The goal of the program is to provide a full continuum of care to justice-involved people with mental illnesses and substance use-disorders. The program began by embedding a social worker in the Crow Wing county jail to increase the quality of mental health screens at intake, provide discharge planning, and connect people to treatment in the community when possible. The original plan was to share the social worker around the region, but the program has since grown so that each jail in the six counties has a dedicated embedded social worker.
Using the Sequential Intercept Model the program has also grown to provide opportunities for diversion and connection to treatment at every point in the criminal justice process. By partnering with community providers like the Northern Pines Mental Health Center the CRE is able to offer a continuum of care to safely divert people to services like residential crisis stabilization and offer more follow up care in jail. Crow Wing County has also developed a pilot co-responder model to work with local police and sheriffs during business hours, as well as weekly coordinated response meetings between social services and local law enforcement to assist high utilizers. Care Coordinators across the region work with court officials pretrial and at arraignments to offer diversion when possible, and with probation officers to reduce recidivism through discharge planning and connection to treatment.
One of the most innovative elements of the CRE is the Community Competency Restoration in Crow Wing county. In 2015 the county was trained in DHS’ competency restoration curriculum, but when the department made changes to their provisional discharging policy in 2018 the county took it upon themselves to revisit the curriculum and tailor it for their clients who were waiting to be restored to competency. By providing restoration education themselves the county saves money when patients need to be discharged from the state hospital, but they also help their community by filling the gap where people may wait in jail or stall the justice system while incompetent to stand trial.
Outcomes from the program have included reductions in jail bookings, length of stay in jail, and recidivism. The CRE is a wonderful example of building partnerships and collaboration to be responsive to the specific needs of a community. We thank the stakeholders in Region V+ for their continued dedication to decriminalize mental illnesses for rural Minnesotans! If you would like more information about the Region V+ CRE contact Tami Lueck at Tami.Lueck@crowwing.us.