Reducing the number of people living with mental illness in Broward County jails is an ongoing priority for the Broward Sheriff’s Office. To achieve that goal, BSO is working alongside a wide-ranging group of community stakeholders in an effort spearheaded by NAMI Broward County (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to find solutions to this problem.
Beginning this week, BSO will participate in two virtual workshops facilitated by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and PRA (Policy Research Associates). The workshops are aimed at identifying resources and gaps in existing community programs in order to divert people living with mental illness and those suffering with substance abuse away from the criminal justice system. These diversion efforts will also address ways to get people living with mental illness into treatment as soon as symptoms arise and before law enforcement is involved.
The workshops will bring together dozens of community leaders from law enforcement, the criminal justice system and the behavioral and mental health systems to identify areas where interventions can be utilized. Those interventions can take place at several points. They could occur as soon as someone calls 911 or when law enforcement makes contact with an individual in crisis. The intervention could occur when someone is booked into a jail facility or is going through the court system. The goal is to identify those interventions and make sure they occur.
“BSO’s Department of Detention provides vital treatment and services on a day-to-day basis to those inside our jails who are living with mental illness,” Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said. “However, we are a public safety organization and it will take a broad-based, community-wide commitment of criminal justice agencies, social service organizations and healthcare providers working together to reduce the number of people living with mental illness in our jails. I’m proud to help lead the effort.”
The workshops and the subsequent training from SAMHSA aim to create improved communication between community stakeholders and increase available interventions for those in need. The workshops will also focus on providing support systems to people living with mental illness in hopes of reducing future contacts with the criminal justice system.