By Dillon Kato
Missoula County Commissioner Cola Rowley was scheduled to speak at a national convention on Sunday about some of the efforts to reduce the number of people with mental illness who end up in jail.
Rowley’s speech took place at the Stepping Up Summit, part of the National Association of Counties’ annual conference in Columbus, Ohio.
“It’s really exciting to get national recognition for Missoula County on this front,” Rowley said.
Many of the policies and programs she planned to discuss come from the Jail Diversion Master Plan drafted by the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office. The city and county are in the process of implementing those recommendations.
Some of the methods she said she intended to highlight are crisis intervention training for law enforcement, which helps officers learn best practices and strategies when responding to a situation involving someone who has a mental illness.
“There’s resources like Dakota Place, the downtown ambassadors, the homeless outreach teams and emergency detention outside of the jail,” Rowley said.
Jail diversion isn’t the only thing that has brought Missoula to the attention of the National Association of Counties. In the spring, the organization granted its Achievement Award to the Missoula County Attorney’s Office for a new program bringing in a licensed clinical social worker to work with prosecutors, detectives and others on the effects of secondary trauma experienced in their jobs.
Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst has said she thinks it’s the first formal program of its kind in the country.
Last month, the National Association of Counties named that same program, called the Secondary Trauma Group, to its list of 100 Brilliant Ideas at Work.