As part of the national Stepping Up initiative, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has developed Ten Ways to Engage People Affected by Mental Illness in Your Community, a new tool to ensure the voices of people with mental illnesses and their families are heard as a part of efforts to reduce the prevalence of mental illnesses in jails.
Individuals living with mental illnesses and their family members can and should play a key role in collaborative efforts to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails. They can be strong allies in building goodwill with the broader community, getting positive media attention for efforts, and advising on strategies that work for advancing mental health recovery. They also can assist in training criminal justice professionals, providing peer support to individuals and families in crisis, and identifying the impact of initiatives.
Although each county or community has its distinct needs and challenges, county leaders and partners can broadly engage individuals or family members in their initiatives to get the most impact. This report identifies 10 strategies for doing just that, including:
- Identify local mental health organizations
- Share information about your efforts
- Invite a representative to participate in efforts
- Build on existing criminal justice programs
- Ask local organizations about education and training programs they offer
- Designate a county staff member to serve as the point of contact
- Encourage service providers and case managers to engage people with mental illnesses and their caregivers in coordinating treatment plans
- Involve certified peer specialists in connecting individuals to services
- Work with individuals with mental illnesses to promote awareness in the community
- Invite mental health organizations to partners with you on hosting awards ceremonies honoring criminal justice and mental health professionals.
If you have a story to share about how your county is working with people with mental illnesses, their families, and advocates to reduce the number of individuals with mental illnesses in jails, you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*To find your local NAMI, visit http://www.nami.org/local. Other mental health organizations you may wish to reach out to include the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery, and Mental Health America. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also has a mental health consumer assistance listing of mental health and substance use recovery organizations.
Stepping Up is a national initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails, and the result of a partnership between NACo, the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation. For more information, visit www.stepuptogether.org.