District 4

Bernalillo County Honored as a Stepping Up Innovator County


Bernalillo County has been recognized by the National Association of Counties as an innovator in the ‘Stepping Up Initiative’ designed to reduce the number of people incarcerated who have mental illness.

Nationally, a disproportionate number of people have mental illnesses in jails. This in and of itself is a public health crisis. In response to this crisis, Bernalillo County worked with the National Association of Counties joining their Stepping Up Initiative, which has helped mobilize hundreds of counties across the country to reduce the prevalence of people in jail who have mental illnesses.

Bernalillo County was recently honored as one of Stepping Up’s growing cohort of Innovator Counties. Bernalillo County was the 18th county nationwide to receive this prestigious status by adopting the ability to:

  • Establish a shared definition of SMI throughout a county’s criminal justice and behavioral health systems
  • Use validated mental health screening tool on every person booked into jail and referring people who screen positive to a follow-up clinical assessment, by a licensed mental health professional and recording clinical assessment results; and
  • Report regularly on this population

In 2015, Bernalillo County joined more than 500 counties in 43 states, representing 40% of the U.S. population to advance Stepping Up’s core goals of building a local leadership team. While working with the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), the Department of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS) established programs to identify the number of people living with mental illnesses entering the jail system, ensuring that those people are connected with services, and developing a comprehensive plan that will lead to an actual reduction in the number of people living with mental illnesses in our jail.

Since joining Stepping Up, Bernalillo County has taken significant steps toward reducing the number of people in jail who have mental illnesses. The services include providing transition plans to inmates in the jail, opening the Resource Reentry Center, providing intensive case management to people releasing from jail, and working with law enforcement to create mobile crisis teams and a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program.

“I am proud of the work that has gone into ensuring some of the most vulnerable community members are taken care of. The Department of Behavioral Health Services has established multiple programs to fill the gaps of services for individuals with mental illness,” says County Commission Chair Lonnie Talbert. “This national recognition exemplifies the success of our work, as a county. The collaboration between DBHS and MDC will continue to make Bernalillo County a safe place to live and work.”

As an Innovator County, Bernalillo County’s Department of Behavioral Health Services will be called upon to share its knowledge with other counties seeking to become Innovator Counties.

Information regarding behavioral health services can be found at: www.bernco.gov/dbhs.

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