Boone County News Release

Press Archives Press Room

For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
Michele Hall
Administrative Coordinator, Boone County Commission
Phone: (573) 886-4307

Boone County Celebrates Successes as Part of Stepping Up Month of Action 2019

May 24, 2019 – Four years ago, in May 2015, the Boone County Commission joined the National Association of Counties’ "Stepping Up Initiative," making Boone County the first in Missouri and one of the first in the nation to join this national initiative. The goals of the initiative are to maintain public safety while diverting when possible those individuals with mental health issues from entering the criminal justice system, and to lower recidivism rates of those already in the system. While much remains to be done, much has been accomplished through a collaborative approach to community-wide issues.

To kick off the initiative, the county held a Sequential Intercept Mapping exercise, a nationally-recognized process of identifying available resources and barriers at all points at which individuals with mental health issues might enter the criminal justice system. Over 30 participants, including representatives of law enforcement, the schools, the University of Missouri’s School of Social Work, the courts, the Veterans’ Hospital, re-entry services, housing, behavioral health care, health care, and the faith community were present for a day-long discussion.  That discussion and identified goals formed the basis for later work in the community.

From that meeting, the county has worked with stakeholders, breaking down institutional and systemic silos. With a focus on prevention, much work has been done to address housing needs and availability of behavioral health resources. Through its Health and Human Services and Community Services Departments, the county secured a grant from the Corporation for Supportive Housing, through which data from the homelessness and law enforcement systems was integrated, thus allowing service providers to more accurately and effectively target resources to the highest utilizers of those systems. The local Episcopal church, Calvary Episcopal, secured a grant from the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri that has enabled the county to create a comprehensive, up-to-date resource data base for families, law enforcement, and professionals within the criminal justice system. The Columbia Housing Authority has obtained housing vouchers which will be utilized for individuals identified by the local Functional Zero Task Force as those at highest need for housing. Those individuals will be provided wrap-around services with funding provided through the county’s Community Health Fund. By focusing on people who have the highest interaction with law enforcement and providing services or housing options, it is anticipated that not only with those in the jail with mental health conditions will be reduced, but that the number of emergency calls related to these individuals will be reduced.

Over the last two years, the Honorable Leslie Schneider of the 13th Judicial Circuit has led meetings twice each month at which the cases of individuals detained in the Boone County Jail who appear to be experiencing mental illness are reviewed. Jail staff, members of the Prosecutor’s Office, private defense counsel, members of the Public Defender’s Office, and mental health workers at the Jail collaborate to more efficiently and effectively address the mental health issues facing those individuals and thus create better results for the individuals and better utilize the limited resources within the system. This innovative program has now helped more than 170 individuals detained in the Boone County Jail. This program is linked to the new mental health screening tool being used routinely as part of the intake process at the jail. Also having an impact, reducing expenditure of many other resources and lowering recidivism rates is the new policy adopted, with funding secured for its continuation, to provide medication-assisted treatment in the jail to those individuals addicted to opioids. To similar effect, in 2015, the Mental Health Court program was made accessible to more individuals, currently 40, and the process for admission was made more efficient, lowering the time between sentencing and admission to treatment court from two weeks or more to five days. Because of the commitment to collaboration across the county, the innovations in the court system have not been limited to the state court system. Under the leadership of the Honorable Cavanaugh Noce, the Columbia Municipal Court implemented a Community Support docket for individuals experiencing homelessness and for Veterans. By drawing on local service providers and volunteer efforts, those in the system are connected with services while at the Municipal Court level and are encouraged to take positive steps to change their path going forward.

Law enforcement throughout Boone County has taken a leadership role in these efforts as well. The Boone County Sheriff’s Department has led efforts to bring all law enforcement agencies in the county together utilizing the same RMS/JMS system. This system will allow agencies to share data and thus more accurately react to and assist individuals in mental health crisis with whom law enforcement comes into contact. Further assisting these efforts is the ongoing participation by law enforcement agencies in the Crisis Intervention Team model, including providing specialized CIT training for employees in the detention staff of the Jail, and for telecommunicators in the 911 Center.

Boone County’s work has been recognized on a national level by being named as part of NACo’s Leadership Lab for 2018 and 2019. As part of the Leadership Lab, representatives of the County, the Court, the City of Columbia, and community behavioral health care providers have been part of national discussions about innovative solutions and best practices. Boone County has also been included, through Commissioner Janet Thompson, in a Joint Task Force comprised of representatives from the National Association of Counties and from the National Sheriffs’ Association. This Task Force is exploring the impacts, including increased recidivism rates, of the national mental and behavioral health crisis and the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy (MIEP), which strips federal health and veterans’ benefits from individuals upon their detention in county jail.

Working together, Boone County IS Stepping Up.