May 21, 2018 Nearly half of the state’s counties are now participating in the Stepping Up Initiative, which is designed to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jails.
That update was delivered Monday by former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, the project director, to members of the Criminal Justice and Mental Health Task Force, which she also co-chairs.
A focus of the initiative moving forward will be on housing, she said, calling it a crucial element to all projects involving mental health. “When they come out of a hospital there is no way that person is really stable and ready to face the public,” she said.
Across Ohio, up to 30% of jail inmates have a mental illness. Ms. Stratton highlighted $2.5 million secured in the two-year state budget (HB 49) to reimburse counties for psychotropic medicine used in jails. She also touted $1.5 million in the budget for crisis centers.
Ms. Stratton also spoke highly of the benefit bank, which is a one-stop shop that connects people with state and federal benefits for which they may be eligible. “Most of the time your client will never make that very first visit,” she said of other agencies.
Another project in the pipeline is the creation of a universal release form, Ms. Stratton said. “We just hope to do all these things that can make a difference.”
Star House: The panel also heard a presentation from Ann Bischoff, CEO of Star House, which is a drop-in center that serves homeless people ages 14-24.
Ms. Bischoff said the center served nearly 1,000 youths last year through 34,000 visits that include the possibility of a shower, a hot meal and a change of clothes.
In addition to basic needs, Star House also focuses on trauma recovery. Ms. Bischoff said about 50% of the youths living on the streets have experienced children services to some extent, about 25% have aged out of foster care and 41% have attempted suicide at least once.
On a 10-point scale of trauma, homeless youth tend to experience the same level of trauma as Holocaust survivors, Ms. Bischoff said. Homeless youths often lack hope for the future, and Star House seeks to help them build social connections to overcome that hopelessness, she added.