Stepping Up Resource Guide

Error message

In order to filter by the "in queue" property, you need to add the Entityqueue: Queue relationship.

An estimated two million annual jail admissions involve adults with serious mental illnesses (SMIs). Counties are at the forefront of this issue and recognize the need for systems-level change to help them better link people to treatment and services while improving public safety in fiscally responsible and effective ways. Launched in May of 2015, the Stepping Up initiative is a national effort to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails. Reducing the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jail: Six Questions County Leaders Need to Ask (Six Questions) is Stepping Up’s foundational document, which provides a planning framework for counties to address this issue at the local level. To further support county efforts, Stepping Up offers tools and resources aligned with this framework. These resources are outlined here, along with suggestions on how to best use these tools to support your county efforts. All resources are available at

Online Tools and Resources

Resource Description When and How to Use It

Stepping Up hosts live webinars throughout the year that feature national experts and county elected officials and practitioners. Webinar recordings and slides are available for review after the presentations, and many webinars have accompanying case studies highlighting county examples.

Webinars are accessible to a broad audience – from county officials to line staff – and recordings can be viewed at any time. County leaders should use the webinars to learn more about a specific component of the framework (e.g., one of the Six Questions) and how individual counties are implementing suggested recommendations on that topic.

Webinar registration links and recordings are available on the Stepping Up Resources page under Toolkit.

County Self-Assessment

The Stepping Up County Self-Assessment is an online tool designed to assist counties in evaluating the status of their current efforts to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails. Counties that use the tool also have access to online resources to help advance their work in areas where they have not fully implemented the recommended approach.

County leaders should complete the County Self-Assessment as a group to identify areas that can be targeted for improvement and then update the tool as progress is made toward implementing new policies and practices. Please note that only one account is available per county, so it is useful to complete the assessment as a team.

The Self-Assessment is available on the Stepping Up website under Resources.

Project Coordinator Handbook

The Project Coordinator Handbook is designed to complement the Six Questions framework as a step-by-step facilitation guide for project coordinators. For each of the Six Questions the guide provides a summary of the question and its related objectives, tips to assist the project coordinator in managing the planning process and exercises designed to help achieve goals and establish an efficient process for capturing the work of the planning team.

Once someone has been assigned to coordinate a county’s Stepping Up efforts, that person should familiarize him- or herself with the handbook and then refer to it throughout the planning process. Many project coordinators print out the document and take it with them to planning team meetings to help with facilitation.

The handbook can be downloaded on the Stepping Up Resources page under Products.


In Focus briefs provide deeper dives into complex topics covered in the Six Questions framework such as implementing mental health screening and assessment, establishing baseline data or conducting a process analysis. Each brief offers a quick overview of the topic, outlines areas that make it challenging for counties and offers implementation tips to overcome these challenges.

County leaders should review In Focus briefs when seeking additional tips for implementing specific policies or practices outlined in the Six Questions framework.

In Focus briefs can be downloaded on the Stepping Up Resources page under Products.

Case studies

Stepping Up releases two-page case studies throughout the year featuring counties that have implemented various components of the Six Question framework. Many of the case studies summarize county examples that were highlighted in the webinars.

County leaders should review case studies when needing inspiration and ideas from other counties that have successfully implemented components of the Six Questions framework.

Case studies can be found on the Stepping Up Resources Toolkit under Additional Resources.

Additional Resources

Stepping Up produces additional resources such as special topics reports, talking points, blogs and news articles, social media and templates to support county efforts.

County leaders should review these additional resources when seeking to address a specific issue in their county such as creating a press release to highlight county progress or addressing a specific population.

Materials are available throughout the Stepping Up website under Resources, News & Updates, Events and The Counties.

Peer-to-Peer Networking and Learning Opportunities 

Resource Description When and How to Use It
Peer Networks

Stepping Up supports networks of small/rural, mid-size and large/urban counties through quarterly calls and ongoing email listservs. Counties that have passed a Stepping Up resolution can self-select a network (or networks) for participation. The networks allow counties of similar size to discuss challenges, opportunities and successes with peers.

County leaders can sign up to participate in the networks at any time and use them to connect with peers across the country to get ideas and troubleshoot challenges with implementing the Six Questions or related activities in the county. Counties can use the email listservs to connect between quarterly calls on time-sensitive issues or to share accomplishments.

Individuals interested in joining these networks can email Nastassia Walsh at NACo at

Conference Workshops and Presentations

NACo hosts national conferences for county officials and staff throughout the year that typically include educational workshops on behavioral health and justice topics, and the Stepping Up partners regularly host meetings of their own and present at other national conferences on related topics.

County leaders should sign up for email alerts on the Stepping Up website under Take Action to receive information on upcoming conferences and educational opportunities. Educational workshops are great opportunities to hear from county peers and national experts on how they are implementing best practices to bolster county planning efforts.

More information on NACo conferences is available at, and other events and NACo workshop recordings are posted on the Stepping Up website under Events.

Innovator Counties

Innovator Counties are those that have successfully implemented the recommended three-step approach to accurately identifying people in jails who have serious mental illnesses, collecting and sharing data on these individuals to better connect them to treatment and services and using this information to inform local policies and practices. These counties are available to mentor other communities on how to implement these processes.

County leaders should reach out to Innovator Counties when looking for examples and tips on implementing a mental health screening and assessment process and collecting data on identified individuals as part of their Stepping Up efforts.

More information on Innovator Counties, including how to join this group, is available on the Stepping Up website under The Counties and Innovator Counties. Many Innovator Counties are highlighted in Stepping Up webinars and case studies as well.

Stepping Up is a national initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails and is the result of a partnership between the National Association of Counties, The Council of State Governments Justice Center and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation. For more information, email

About Nastassia Walsh (Full Bio)

Associate Program Director – Justice

Nastassia Walsh is an Associate Program Director for Justice at the National Association of Counties (NACo). In this role, she focuses primarily on providing educational programming on the intersection of mental health and justice and other criminal justice areas.

Related Posts

Related Resources

More From