Grant intended to keep individuals with mental illness out of jail.

November 14, 2020

Grant intended to keep individuals with mental illness out of jail.

LUDINGTON — West Michigan Community Mental Health will use a $750,000 federal grant to create programs that will help keep individuals with mental illness out of jail and get them the appropriate mental health supports.

The three-year grant from the Department of Justice stems from an initial planning grant that was awarded in 2018 that established the Jail Diversion Collaborative of Lake, Mason and Oceana counties. The collaborative identified opportunities for improving identification and response to persons with mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorders who interact with the criminal justice system.

The funding will include implementation of a crisis intervention team, increased access to mental health mobile crisis services using mobile devices and in-person contacts, expansion of jail diversion services including the use of criminogenic screenings, and provision of mental health services in local jails. 

“By providing crisis intervention team training to local law enforcement, they will be better equipped to begin managing a mental health situation, and when necessary, connect quickly with Community Mental Health for more support until a solution is secured,” said Josh Snyder, chief clinical officer at West Michigan CMH. “In addition, the provision of iPads will allow remote connection and nearly immediate support, when needed.  The goal is to quickly de-escalate situations and avoid unnecessary jail admissions.

“This grant will also allow us to hire additional staff to work with inmates inside the three county jails to ensure they have a good plan for housing, job opportunities and mental health resources for when they are released. People with mental health concerns involved in the legal system will be able to get the right help at the right time to improve their lives, reduce legal recidivism, and better the communities in which we all live.”

The Pentwater Police Department served as the partner-applicant for the grant. 

“Jail diversion is a huge thing for us to work on,” said Pentwater Police Chief Laude Hartrum. “It not only takes the stress off our jails, but it addresses the needs of those with mental illness in our three-county area.” 

Hartrum said many of the local law enforcement agencies have frequent contact with people who are in a mental health crisis. 

“These individuals don’t deserve to go to jail,” Hartrum said. “They just need a way to access mental health services. This grant will allow us to train our police officers to identify those who are in a mental health crisis and navigate the behavioral health system to get them the help they need rather than taking them to jail.” 

West Michigan CMH will continue to work with the Jail Diversion Collaborative to implement the comprehensive strategic plan developed in 2018 to improve service delivery through law enforcement and mental health. One of the long-term goals is to create a local “specialty court”, which would divert select defendants with mental illness into judicially supervised, community-based well-coordinated treatment. 

West Michigan Community Mental Health is a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic and serves as the public behavioral health care provider for people with mental health conditions, developmental disabilities, and/or substance abuse disorders in Mason, Lake and Oceana counties.

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