OJA awards Rock County $50,000 for Justice Project

ROCK COUNTY (WIFR) -- OJA has awarded a $50,000 federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) to the Rock County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) for its Behavioral Health and Justice Project.

Since its inception in 2006, the Rock County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) has identified mental health and substance abuse in the criminal justice system as top priorities.

The $50,000 JAG grant award will enable the county to develop and implement a strategic plan to help reduce incarceration and promote more successful recovery outcomes for adults and juveniles with mental health and/or substance abuse conditions and other complex needs within the Rock Country behavioral health and criminal justice system.

“OJA is pleased to support the work of local Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils as they assess the needs of their community’s criminal justice system and respond with programs and practices that are tailored to local priorities,” said John Murray, Office of Justice Assistance Executive Director.

Underlying mental health issues can result in repeat interactions with law enforcement and the courts. Without addressing mental health or alcohol and other drug dependency issues that may factor into repeat criminal behavior, justice system resources are forced to concentrate on the same people multiple times without addressing their core needs. It is presumed at least 15% of Rock County Jail inmates have a mental health issue. During the last quarter of 2011, an average of 67 inmates per day (out of an average daily census of 408) were formally diagnosed with an illness requiring the use of psychotropic medications.

In 2011, Rock County released a final report of a year-long examination on the interaction between mental health issues and the criminal justice system. The report outlined recommendations to assist Rock County in the creation of a strategic, collaborative plan to identify and treat persons involved with the criminal justice system that have mental health and/or alcohol or other drug dependency issues.

As a result of this report, the County Board established a permanent committee to advise on behavioral health matters. The behavioral health advisory committee consists of twenty members including representatives from human services, law enforcement/criminal justice, juvenile justice, consumers, family members, advocates, private providers, spiritual groups, and other representatives.

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