The La Paz County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to adopt a proclamation that commits them to a national initiative aimed at reducing the number of people with mental illness in county jails.
Monday’s decision makes La Paz County the 15th Arizona County to commit to the Stepping Up Initiative, which, in turn, makes Arizona the first state in the United States to have all its counties on board, stated Steven Harvey, a board member of David’s Hope, an mental health advocacy organization that leads the Arizona Mental Health Criminal Justice Coalition.
“It’s the first step, now there’s a lot of follow up work that has to take place,” said Harvey, who has been working with the county on the Stepping Up Initiative. “It may seem overwhelming for the supervisors because they’re so busy but I think once we get going they will find that they have quite a bit of support.”
According to Harvey, the county’s next steps as a part of the initiative would be to begin working with their mental health system on ways to places people with mental health illnesses that have committed a small crime into treatment.
“When someone comes into the jail and they realize that it’s not really criminal but more behavioral health and needing services, they pull in a crisis team immediately and see that there’s an alternative to detention,” said Owens. “The jail does a good job…I think a lot of the work was already being done but people didn’t realize it.”