Pierce County has been awarded $1.9 million in grant funding to address the challenges faced by individuals with behavioral health conditions in Pierce County’s criminal justice system.
The 18-month grant will begin in March 2018 and funds mental health professionals, case coordinators, a social worker, and legal professionals with expertise in prosecutorial diversion of cases with behavioral health factors. The grant also funds a court resource center, supportive housing and rental assistance for individuals transitioning from jail.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to improve outcomes for those who languish in our criminal justice system due to no fault of their own,” said Carol Mitchell, Pierce County Director of Justice Services and Special Projects. “This grant provides us with meaningful ways to divert individuals with behavioral health conditions from jail to therapeutic treatment, and to create more effective re-entry support for those returning to the local community.”
Pierce County is contracting with Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare to provide assessment, case management and therapeutic treatment within the Pierce County jail and the court resource center through an individual’s initial detention and re-entry from jail.
“This project creates a connection and partnership between the criminal justice system and behavioral health that is vital to reducing the cycle of arrests for individuals with mental illness,” said Deanna Carron, Director of Forensic Services, Greater Lakes Mental Health. “Greater Lakes has been working with justice involved individuals for many years, and we are confident that these partnerships will serve to improve the lives of these individuals, reduce demand on the jail and increase safety for the community.”
Substance use assessment is being provided by Pioneer Human Services, a social enterprise that serves individuals with criminal histories who are in need of treatment, housing, job skills training and employment.
Steve Woolworth, Vice President of Pioneer’s Treatment & Reentry Division, stated, “We are excited to partner with Pierce County on this important effort and are hopeful that through these collaborations some long overdue system changes take hold.”
The grant funding awarded to Pierce County, and other jurisdictions and treatment providers in the state, is made possible by a ruling in Trueblood v. Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Trueblood is a Federal District Court class-action case that ordered the state to take immediate steps to reduce the length of time class members are waiting in jail so that no one is waiting more than seven days for admission to a hospital for competency restoration services, or fourteen days for a fully completed jail-based competency evaluation. DSHS has been unable to comply with reducing wait times for admission services to seven days or less.
The Department of Social and Health Services has faced financial penalties arising from the case, leading to a pool of millions of dollars in grant money for which jurisdictions may apply.